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Don’t ever think elections don’t matter

The Stennis Press Institute recetly featured the Republican and Democratic candidates for the central district Public Service Commissioner.

Brent Bailey is the Republican candidate. From Carthage originally, Bailey and his wife Rhonda live in Madison County. He received an engineering degree from Mississippi State.

Bailey has worked in energy conservation for the Mississippi Farm Bureau and has been the state director of 25×25 – a national organization that seeks to obtain 25 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable resources by 2025.

Bailey received the MSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Achievement Award for contributions to the economic viability of the state agriculture and forestry sectors.

Jackson two-term City Councilman De’Keither Stamps, a Learned native, is the Democratic candidate. De’Keither, a former Marine and Army officer, lives in Jackson with his wife Debra and three girls. He farms with his father in southern Hinds County.

During his Stennis talk, Bailey talked of his experience. “I’d like to think I’m the candidate with the most experience and qualifications, the know-how and the independence to be the consumers voice at the Public Service Commission.”

Bailey said he would work to promote energy efficiency, fight robo calls and help bring high-speed rural internet. “I will work every day to make sure we have the lowest cost, most reliable, safest energy available.”

“I have been working with the PSC for over 10 years now. I, and others, sounded the alarm on Kemper, questioning the viability of the technology and questioning its impact on rates and consumers. While approximately $6.5 billion was saved for consumers, still over a billion dollars was put into the rate profile for Mississippi Power customers … I believe with simple transparency and an unyielding commitment to due diligence, we could have avoided the magnitude of that project that now lies (in) political lore.”

Stamps mentioned his deployments around the world before finally coming back to his roots in Mississippi. “When I came back to Mississippi, Mississippi wasn’t necessarily the Mississippi I had in my heart all those years … I had traveled all over the world and lived in 21 countries. Mississippi wasn’t as advanced as I hoped it would be. I was sitting down on the porch one day with my grandmother and she said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ So, I stepped up and got involved in politics to try to … move Mississippi forward.”

“I also serve on the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District board …. That’s the kind of proven leadership I bring. Leadership that focuses on making things better, doing right by people, working together and focusing on moving Mississippi forward.”

Listening to both of these men, I felt good about our political process. First of all, they were both complete gentlemen, complimenting each other and joking jovially about being out on the campaign trail. Stamps admitted that Bailey has a lot more experience in the PSC technical matters, but felt he had a better public-private partnership vision.

Many people may see this as a boring race for a boring office, but the PSC wields enormous monetary power over the people of Mississippi. Your gas and electric bills are like a tax. There is often no competition and the actions of the PSC can cost or save Mississippi families thousands of dollars.

Thanks to a small crew of alert and concerned Mississippians like Brent Bailey, Hattiesburg’s Tom Blanton, Kelley Williams with Bigger Pie, and many others, our state avoided a $7.5 billion disaster which would have stifled economic development for decades. In the nick of time, we stopped the PSC from deeming Kemper “prudent.” Not so with an ill-fated nuclear plant in South Carolina where ratepayers are now saddled with a $20 billion disaster.

Mississippi is one of only 11 states where PSC commissioners are elected. In most states, the governor appoints. In the case of Kemper, the electoral process worked. New commissioners Cecil Brown and Sam Britton got elected in a wave of anti-Kemper electoral backlash.

Those two, along with the leadership of Brandon Presley, a Kemper opponent from the start, saved the day.

So, don’t ever think elections don’t matter. Even boring ones, like the PSC.

Wyatt Emmerich is a columnist, writer and publisher in Jackson. He can be reached at wyatt@northsidesun.com.