Contributed by Cindy Wilson
I joined Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love in Charleston in 1989, where I did coal, oil and gas work and related litigation. About 4 1/2 years later, I went in-house with Mountaineer Gas Company, West Virginia’s largest natural gas utility. A couple of years later, in 1995, Mountaineer was sold, and, as in-house legal departments often don’t survive these events and my children needed health insurance, I left to clerk at the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.
I advise and directly support all three gubernatorial appointees. By statute, our Commissioners must be from both political parties, so I choose not to have any public political opinions these days. I saw a Bowles Rice partner the other day and said that I was quickly approaching the “Rule of 80,” under which I could retire from the state system and do something else, and that I had been working for gubernatorial appointees for a very loooong time. He aptly remarked, “You’ve survived gubernatorial appointees for a very long time.”
Our commission has a broader mandate than public utility boards in most other states. We regulate water, sewer, gas, electric, telephone and taxicabs, and have limited oversight over wreckers and household goods movers. Moreover, West Virginia law requires trash collectors and landfills to be certificated. By state statute, we also handle quality of service complaints and have rate review authority for the basic tier prices of cable television service. And, if a county does not have a franchising authority, the Commission fills that role for applications to provide cable service. We also get a case about an oil pipeline (yes, there is one in WV) or a toll bridge every once in a while.
When the Legislature wants something new regulated, that topic often lands here. A few years ago, a plan was reached to allow coal trucks to carry more weight on designated roads, and we are responsible for the system to issue permits to these haulers and enforce the weight limits. When the cost of veteran’s grave markers was regulated, that was assigned to us.
The WV Public Service Commission, not a separate siting board, issues Siting Certificates for wholesale electric generators, including wind farms. We also certify alternative and renewable energy facilities as a qualified energy resource to generate alternative and renewable energy resource credits.
Twice during my time here I’ve been the lead law clerk, with hiring and training responsibilities for other attorneys working for the Commissioners. As the political winds blow, the lead law clerk responsibility shifts and I’m out of that role at the moment.
My son Eric, 27, who you may remember was born between first and second years, is a Nuke Sailor on the USS Eisenhower based in Virginia Beach. When he qualified to operate the ship’s reactor, he described it to his aunt this way, “It means that some important people trust me to take care of a floating nuclear plant. . . Don’t freak out too much.” When his Navy contract is up in about 2 years, he plans to go to law school, likely in Virginia. His wife, Andrea, is the first assistant golf pro at Broad Bay Country Club in Virginia Beach.
My other son, Bradley, 22, graduated from Marshall University this summer in international business and finance, and he is in the midst of deciding how to make his way in life as an adult. Grad school is probably in his stars, but I vote (to the extent that I have a say any longer) for some real world work experience first. His semester abroad was at Anglia-Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. In the spring of 2013, I hopped across the pond to visit him and we saw the Colosseum, Ephesus, Pompeii, the Acropolis and Stonehenge in one wonderful trip.
I was divorced about 10 years ago and now that college expenses are done, I’m attending to delayed maintenance items at home – roof, gutters, tree trimming, and so on. I love traveling, cooking and yoga, and I probably should think about an intervention to separate me a bit from my Kindle. This summer I’m growing Swiss chard in a container outside of my office. The deer have quite the sense of entitlement to anything that I plant at home.
In the next phase of my work life, I’d like to teach legal writing, full- or part-time. If I land in a law school setting, perhaps I might teach administrative law, too.
Like Judy Levy, I attended law school several years after college and was a non-traditional student. While pregnant and mothering a newborn, there wasn’t much time or energy for me to socialize at UC. These blog posts make me feel more connected now than I was 25 years ago.
Many, many thanks to the planning committee.