published Monday, June 18th, 2012

18 apply for top TRA director post at Tennessee Regulatory Authority

TRA Executive Director Candidates

Tommy Alsup

Senior Director of Government Relations, CCA, Nashville, TN

Edward Carr

General Manager, Rochelle Municipal Utilities, Rochelle, Illinois

George Ducas

Architect, Irving, TX

Lynn Greer

President & CEO, Greer Investment Company, Nashville, TN

David Haddad

Regulatory Analyst, Duquesne Light Company, Nashville, TN

Ahmad Kahn

Portfolio Manager, Power Marketing, Denver, CO

Jim Kendrick

Director of Utilities, Danville Utilities, Danville, KY

Michael McDonald

Bursar, Fisk University, Nashville, TN

Phil Reed

Business Development Manager, Image Communications, Goodlettsville, TN

William Schmidt

CEO, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, Centuria, WI

Bridget Shahan

Attorney & Utility Consultant, Nashville, TN

Jess Shell

Asst. Executive Director, Macon Water Authority, Macon, GA

Jim Trent

Senior Consultant, Rockwell Automation, Santee, CA

Helen Trimble-Anthony

Utilities Consultant, TRA, Nashville, TN

Harper Wald

Pharmacy Technician, CVS Pharmacy, Arlington, VA

Charles Ward

Retired, General Manager of Kittias County Public Utilities District (Washington), Bristol, VA

Joseph Werner

Finance Director, Department of F & A, Nashville, TN

Vivian Wilhoite

Consumer Education & Outreach, TRA, Nashville, TN

NASHVILLE -- Interviews start today for some of the 18 people who have applied to become the first executive director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

Lynn Greer, a former TRA director who is president and CEO of Nashville-based Greer Investment Co., is among the applicants.

So is Joseph Werner, a CPA in the state's Department of Finance and Administration who formerly served the TRA as telecommunications chief, financial analyst and in other roles.

Two others with current or former TRA ties have applied, as well as several utility industry consultants or analysts, executives with smaller utilities, and the senior director of government affairs for Corrections Corporation of America.

The Tennessee Regulatory Authority's duties include rate-setting for monopoly utilities like Tennessee American Water and Chattanooga Gas.

State lawmakers this year granted Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's wish to change the organization's governance from four full-time board members to a part-time board with five members and a full-time executive director.

During legislative debate on the changes, critics lambasted the move to part-time directors as impractical for the complexity and intensity of rate cases.

Whether the whole new structure is up and running by July 1, as scheduled, is unclear. But as soon as they sit down, the new board and executive director will have on their plates Tennessee American's recent filing for a 23 percent hike to the average Chattanooga ratepayer's bill.

Restructuring

The new director will be paid up to $140,000 a year to start, while board members' pay drops from $152,000 a year to $36,000.

Two current directors, Chairman Kenneth Hill and Sarah Kyle, will remain on the board but become part time.

Greer said Saturday he asked Haslam special assistant Mark Cate about some of the legislative changes, and Cate suggested he apply for executive director.

Greer was appointed to the TRA in 1996 by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist after it was created to replace the scandal-plagued Public Service Commission. He became the reconstituted agency's first chairman, leaving in 2002.

"I love the job there," Greer said, adding the agency has a "great group" of highly educated analysts and others to work with.

A "big change" under the reorganization is that the part-time directors no longer will have their own policy advisers, he said.

The advisers -- some directors have chosen more political ones -- helped sort information provided by the technical staff, utilities and attorneys representing consumers, Greer said. His own adviser had a doctorate in economics, he said.

Now the technical staff will report to the executive director.

"The challenge for the executive director is going to be making sure that his staff is responsive to the directors even though they're not there full time," he said. "It's incumbent upon the executive director to build a trust and a relationship with five people [directors]."

Another challenge will be looking for operating efficiencies and cost savings, he said.

Shared appointment

Haslam's original plan to have the governor appoint the executive director ran into a wall of lawmaker opposition, with Democrats charging it was a power grab and even majority Republicans voicing concerns.

They compromised on a joint appointment by the governor and Republican Senate and House speakers. Future executive directors will be named by the part-time board.

It took the Times Free Press from June 8 until Friday to get the applicants' names, although the information is public under the state's open meetings law.

The Department of Human Resources on Thursday turned over 14 names. It turned out that some, including Greer and Vivian Wilhoite, the TRA's head of consumer educator and outreach, applied directly to the governor's office.

Haslam spokesman David Smith provided the full list Friday, expressing regrets over the mixup.

He said the administration and legislative leaders are reviewing all the submissions and looking for a large pool of candidates.

"There are no advantages either way if that's what you're implying," Smith said.

As for getting a list of candidates applying to become the part-time directors, Smith said, "we're currently reaching out to people in the industry and others for ideas on candidates, so there's no list."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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