Letson seeks seat on utilities board

Warren Democrat state Rep. Tom Letson is among 26 applicants in the mix for a seat on Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission.

The commissioner’s position became vacant today due to the resignation of Democrat Cheryl Roberto, who in November announced her last day on the five-person board would be Dec. 31, about four months before her term expires.

A nominating committee will whittle down the applicants to three and present those names to Ohio Gov. John Kasich to make the appointment, said the governor’s spokesman Rob Nichols.

”The idea is that sometime in the coming weeks, he will appoint someone to fill the unexpired term with the presumption that person will fill it when Roberto’s term expires,” Nichols said.

The new term begins April 11.

Roberto, appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Ted Strickland, earned $119,995 a year. It’s unknown how much the person picked to replace her will earn; Kasich will set the salary. The salary range for a commissioner is between $73,715 and $157,995, according to PUCO.

Letson, who in addition to his pay receives a stipend for being a ranking House committee member, earned about $68,000 last year.

The board cannot have more than three members from one political party, and with commissioners Todd A. Snitchler, Andre Porter and Lynn Slaby being Republicans that means whoever replaces Roberto must be a Democrat or not affiliated with a party.

Letson, just re-elected to another two-year term in the Ohio House, said if picked he would have to resign the 64th District seat. Democrats in the House would pick his replacement. Because of term limits, Letson cannot run for another consecutive term.

Letson said he would be a good fit for the commission because of his experience with energy policy while on the Ways and Means Committee, as former chairman and now ranking Democrat.

”I have a feeling with oil and shale and pipeline transmission and trucks and different kinds of shipping, the PUCO is going to be more and more involved in energy and communications policy as we move forward,” Letson said.