BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - New Southern Public Service Commissioner Steve Renfroe said when it comes to making decisions, he won't be playing politics. Governor Phil Bryant appointed the lifelong Moss Point resident to serve out the unexpired term of Leonard Bentz.
Renfroe steps in at a time when there is much controversy surrounding Mississippi Power's Kemper County plant. He said he believes there is a sweet spot between keeping costs down and investing in reliable energy.
Right from the start, Renfroe made it clear he doesn't have any political aspirations.
"I will not run in 2015. And because I won't run, I won't accept any political contributions either," said Renfroe. "I have no interest in becoming really political about this, even though I understand there may be some choppy water ahead."
Those choppy waters are the controversial the Kemper County plant and possible rate increases facing Mississippi Power customers to pay for it. Governor Phi Bryant said he chose Renfroe partly because of his ability to be unbiased.
"It is critically important to have someone who won't yield to either side of those political influences," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "This is a regulatory responsibility. When you look at the responsibility of being a regulator you have to be totally independent."
"When you have to think about political pressures, when you have to think about raising campaign money, when you're out there having to travel and make speeches, it takes the time away from making a clear and independent decision," said Gov. Bryant.
Renfroe said he knows there will be many groups trying to influence his views and decisions on the Kemper County plant.
"This is an opportunity. Every situation like this is an opportunity," said Renfroe. "There is a solution out there that we can find that is the best solution and that's what I'm after. In making decisions, it's important to balance competing interest. There should be downward pressure on costs. How do you keep costs low or at least not rising? At the same time you have to invest for the long term so you never run out of the energy supply that you need. I do know that if you start off with these basic principles of making sure you know how to balance the competing interest then that will lead to making specific decisions or the best specific decisions."
Renfroe plans to be looking at Mississippi energy solutions until voters select someone else for the job. Steve Renfroe is a Moss Point native who retired after 35 years at the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula. During that time he worked as an environmental specialist and then later as a public affairs manager.
Renfroe will be sworn in early next week by Hattiesburg Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail.