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Rick Scott budget official and others vying for PSC opening

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Those vying for an open seat on the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) range from seemingly unqualified to having decades of regulatory experience.

One of the contenders is Gov. Rick Scott‘s current deputy policy coordinator. Another comes recommended by a current state senator and a former University of Florida president.

The state’s Office of Legislative Services on Thursday released copies of applications for the position on the board, which regulates and sets rates for the state’s investor-owned utilities.

Eleven people applied, including Jeffrey S. Bragg, who most recently was an unsuccessful candidate for state Insurance Commissioner.

Here are summaries of their backgrounds, based on the records that were released:

Johnnie E. Cooper: The Plant City native has twice run unsuccessfully for a state House seat. Cooper, who listed his net worth as zero, is studying for a master’s degree in public administration at Fort Lauderdale’s Nova Southeastern University, which he listed as “Nova Southern University.” He calls himself “detail-oriented” and a “hard worker” though he lists no prior experience in the utilities industry. He did says he interned in former Sen. Bob Graham‘s office.

John R. Coleman: The New Port Richey resident spent 28 years working for the New York State Department of Public Service, specializing in telecommunications regulation. Before that, he was a legislative auditor. He has a master’s in public administration from Syracuse University.

Albert E. Martin: The Fleming Island resident hopes the fourth time’s a charm, having applied three previous times to be on the commission. The retired engineer and Army veteran says he was laid off during the recession from his last job as a plant engineer at the University of Nevada, Reno. He previously worked for hospitals in Orlando and Winter Haven.

Dennis E. Shannon: The Gulfport resident is a longtime heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) installer and trainer. That experience, he says, allows him “the vision of how infrastructures and the public should be directed for the common efficiency and cost effectiveness that a public service commission should provide.”

Jeffrey S. Foster: He’s a licensed geologist and engineer who now works for the city of Jacksonville as a public works projects manager. He also is on the board of Groundwork Jacksonville, a nonprofit that works to clean up “brownfields” for reuse.

Cynthia J. Wilson Orndoff: The Fort Myers resident was a civil engineer, then became an attorney, and now teaches construction management at Florida SouthWestern State College. She lists a net worth of negative-$165,447, saying she was “impacted by student loans and the downturn in the housing market.”

Donald J. Polmann: The Dunedin resident is a registered professional engineer, with three degrees, including a doctorate in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He wrote a chapter for a scholarly book on water use and supply. He’s now a senior manager at Atkins, a international design and engineering firm, specializing in water projects. 

Thomas P. Brantley: The Tallahassee resident is Leon County’s veteran director of facilities management and construction. He says he plans to retire this August after 22 years in that position. Brantley, another engineer, also has helped design nuclear power plants and has a side job as an expert witness in forensic engineering, the study of ‘what went wrong.’

Stuart W. Pollins: The Tallahassee resident, who works for Gov. Scott, helps put together the transportation and economic development parts of the state budget as a deputy coordinator. He also was the budget analyst overseeing the PSC and helped develop recommendations on utility-related legislation, he said. Pollins has dual master’s degrees from Florida State University and was a budget analyst for the federal government in the 1990s. 

Jeffrey S. Bragg: The Palm Harbor resident was in the news recently when he applied for the job of state Insurance Commissioner. He emerged as Scott’s top pick but wasn’t supported by CFO Jeff Atwater, causing a weeks-long deadlock. That job was eventually given to David Altmaier, a deputy commissioner. Bragg retired from the U.S. Department of Treasury in 2014 after serving as head of its Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. He also was in senior management for Zurich Risk Management.

Todd N. Chase: This Harvard Business School graduate is now a Gainesville city commissioner who first took office in 2011. His journey in public service began the year before, he said, as he watched his mother “tearfully (holding) her utility bill and wonder(ing) how she would pay it.” He’s a former Navy aviator and current venture capitalist. State Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican and Chase’s college friend, wrote him a recommendation letter, as did former University of Florida president Bernie Machen, who retired in 2014. 

The applications, due by 5 p.m. Tuesday, now go to the Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which “screen(s) and nominate(s) applicants for appointment by the Governor to fill vacancies on the Florida Public Service Commission,” its website says.

Its current chair is Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican, and its members include current and former legislators. The council eventually will “nominate no fewer than three persons,” according to its rules. One will then be chosen by Scott.

The opening comes after current Commissioner Lisa Edgar said she would not seek a fourth term on the PSC. Edgar plans to serve until the end of her current four-year term on Jan. 1. She did not say what her next move would be.


Jim Rosica (jim@floridapolitics.com) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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