TALLAHASSEE — The two new commissioners named to the state's utility regulation board persuaded the governor and nominating council that they were prepared for the job, one by pitching himself as an independent voice, the other as a budget-trimmer.
David Klement, 69, the former chairman of the Bradenton Herald editorial board, said he emphasized his lack of connections with the PSC and utilities in his interview with Crist this week.
"I said, frankly, I come without any baggage. … I told him I think he needs at least one generalist who understands policy," Klement said.
He said he hopes to focus on policy that encourages renewable energy and more access to broadband, particularly in rural areas.
"I don't intend to go in with a huge agenda and say I hope to change things overnight," he said. "That would be futile."
Klement said he didn't remind Crist that the Bradenton Herald endorsed him only two of three times when he was running for office.
"We didn't support him when he was 'Chain Gang Charlie,' but we did when he was running for attorney general and governor because he had proven himself — after having maybe a slow start," he said.
Stevens, 44, a former finance director of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, told the nominating commission during his Sept. 1 interview that, "I understand the challenges in state government, in trying to handle a budget deficit and making things fit."
He said his experience as a budget manager and a department head will help him work with PSC staffers to understand the issues facing utilities. "I always do my homework and make sure I have the background to make the decision," he said.
Stevens lists no current employer on his resume and is half owner in a bar and package lounge in Cantonment, near Pensacola. The four-year appointment to the PSC pays $130,000 a year.
Crist told the Times/Herald that he has no problem with Stevens owning a bar.
"What's wrong with owning a small business?" he said, adding that his grandfather owned a bar when he first came to the United States. "He certainly will be aware of the cost of his utility bill."
In the next few years, the panel will make decisions that will affect every Florida resident, deciding how many new power plants to build and replacing outdated telecommunications systems and aging water and sewer pipes. It will direct how utilities use renewable energy, will set policy for the construction of nuclear plants and decide how utilities handle hurricanes and storm recovery.
Crist said that given these challenges, he is "hopeful and encouraged they will carry out their duties with consideration of the consumers and the economy we're in."
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.