Eighteen people have applied for the job of running day-to-day operations at the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, including the first chairman of the agency and three current or former TRA employees.
The utility-regulating TRA was substantially changed earlier this year with passage of legislation pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The transformation replaces the present four full-time directors with a five-member, part-time board and creates a new position for a full-time executive director
During legislative debate, critics of the Haslam bill questioned whether the executive director would effectively run the agency with the part-time board serving as a rubber stamp for his or her decisions. Proponents disputed such contentions.
The deadline for submitting applications was June 6, but the Haslam administration – in response to a request made a day later — did not provide a full list of applicants until Friday. Apparently, the delay was partly caused by most of the applicants filing with the Department of Human Resources, as requested in ads soliciting applications, while four sent their applications directly to the governor.
As originally proposed by Haslam, the TRA transformation bill called for the governor to appoint the executive direct. An amendment adopted after complaints that would undermine legislative authority. Provides instead that Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsy must jointly approve the first executive director, who is expected to have a salary of about $150,000 per year – the amount now paid to full-time directors.
Mark Cate, senior advisor to the governor, will apparently lead the screening process and coordinate with representatives of the two speakers. Interviews begin this week with the goal of having the executive director selected by July 1, when the legislation takes effect.
Among those applying directly to the governor was Lynn Greer, who served as first chairman of the TRA when it was created in 1996 to replace the former Public Service Commission under legislation pushed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist. An active Republican, Greer now serves as CEO of a Nashville investment company and as a member of the Davidson County Election Commission. He was appointed to the latter post by Harwell.
In an interview, Greer recalled that the TRA was “a mess” when it took over from the old PSC, where commissioners faced accusations of soliciting political contributions from regulated industries. But he said the working staff was highly trained and professional.
“I’d like to be part of restructuring the agency again,” he said.
Greer said he had a “major concern” with the restructing bill as originally proposed by Haslam, believing that the governor should not have sole responsibility for hiring and firing the executive director. That concern was eliminated with the amendment, he said.
Other applicants include Joseph Werner, finance director of the state Department of Finance and Administration and formerly head of the TRA’s telecommunications staff; Helen Trimble-Anthony, who has been a utility auditor and financial examiner with the TRA; and Vivian Wilhoite, who works in “consumer outreadh and education” at the agency.
Nine applicants are from outside Tennessee, most of them involved in utility operations at one level or another.
Other Tennesseans applying – all from the Nashville area — include Tommy Alsup, former mayor of Oak Hill and now senior director of government relations for Corrections Corporation of America; and Bridget Shahan, an attorney and utility consultant.
The five part-time directors, under the new law, will include two of the current full-time directors with time remaining in their terms — Kenneth Hill and Sara Kyle. Haslam, Harwell and Ramsey will all have a role in appointing directors under the law.
Here is the full list of applicants:
TRA Executive Director Candidates
Senior Director of Government Relations, CCA
General Manager, Rochelle Municipal Utilities
President & CEO, Greer Investment Company
Regulatory Analyst, Duquesne Light Company
Portfolio Manager, Power Marketing
Director of Utilities, Danville Utilities
Bursar, Fisk University
Business Development Manager, Image Communications
CEO, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative
Attorney & Utility Consultant
Asst. Executive Director, Macon Water Authority
Senior Consultant, Rockwell Automation
Utilities Consultant, TRA
Pharmacy Technician, CVS Pharmacy
Retired, General Manager of Kittias County Public Utilities District (Washington)
Finance Director, Department of F & A
Consumer Education & Outreach, TRA