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Perry Names Smitherman to Railroad Commission

Photo by PUC Commissioner

Gov. Rick Perry is moving Barry Smitherman from the Public Utility Commission to the Texas Railroad Commission, replacing Michael Williams, who resigned earlier this year to run for Congress. Smitherman was sworn into office this afternoon by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.

The PUC is run by appointed commissioners; to keep his new seat at the Railroad Commission, Smitherman will have to win election to the post in 2012. The three-member RRC is the state's chief energy regulator.

A number of others were hoping for that appointment, including state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker, both of whom have expressed interest in Williams' post.

They might get another chance in the next election cycle. Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones is running for the U.S. Senate and won't be seeking reelection to the Railroad Commission. She's one of several candidates hoping to succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Smitherman issued a statement this afternoon: I thank Gov. Rick Perry for his leadership of our state and for appointing me to the Railroad Commission. I also thank my state senator Kirk Watson for his support. I look forward to working with Chairman Jones and Commissioner Porter in tackling the issues facing the Railroad Commission. The Railroad Commission has a long and storied history beginning with the first Commissioner, John H. Reagan. I am honored for the opportunity to help shape the future of this important and remarkable agency.

Here is Perry's announcement:

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Barry Smitherman of Austin to the Railroad Commission of Texas for a term to expire at the next general election. "Barry’s strong leadership at the Texas Public Utility Commission helped make Texas energy and telecommunications markets stronger and more affordable, and served the best interests of Texas consumers and families. As he did at the PUC, Railroad Commissioner Smitherman will continue to push back against the Obama Administration’s misguided energy policies, which threaten Texas jobs and our nation’s energy security,” Gov. Perry said. “His knowledge of Texas’ energy market and our energy needs is unparalleled, and I’m confident he will continue to serve our state well in his new capacity at the Railroad Commission.” Smitherman is chairman of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), a position he has held since 2007. He has served as a member of the PUC since his appointment in 2004. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Electricity Advisory Committee, and a board member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and Energy Resources and Environment Committee. He is vice chair of the Governor’s Advisory Panel on Federal Environmental Regulation, vice president of the Southwest Power Pool Regional State Committee, an ex officio board member of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and a member of the State Bar of Texas. Prior to his service at the PUC, Smitherman spent more than 18 years in various public banking and legal positions. He is a past Harris County Assistant District Attorney, and formerly managed the Houston Public Finance offices of Lazard Freres and J.P. Morgan. He is also a past managing director and national director of the Bank One Tax-Exempt Bond Department, and a former adjunct professor of public administration at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Smitherman received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.

Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.