Opinion: PSC leaders shouldn’t have used redistricting for political advantage

(Melinda Fawver/Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

(Melinda Fawver/Dreamstime/TNS)

You probably don’t think too much about Georgia’s Public Service Commission, but it’s more important to you than you might realize.

It’s the government body whose five members play a major role in shaping Georgians’ lives. The PSC decides where much of our electricity comes from and how much customers pay for it.

The PSC also plays a major role in overseeing Plant Vogtle, Georgia Power’s troubled nuclear project.

Though it also regulates dozens of telecommunications providers and oversees thousands of miles of natural gas lines, the highest-profile company under its purview is undoubtedly Georgia Power — the state’s largest electric utility, which delivers power to nearly 2.7 million residential and commercial customers.

So when the commissioners misbehave, they should be called on it.

Apparently, commission chair Tricia Pridemore and vice chair Tim Echols were counting on no one paying attention to their shenanigans as the state was redrawing the PSC districts.

Here’s a brief summary of their scheme, as revealed by text messages they exchanged:

Democrat Patty Durand was seeking the nomination to challenge Echols for his District 2 seat in November. It appears the two incumbents wanted the district boundaries changed so that Durand, who previously lived in Gwinnett County, would be ineligible to run. Commissioners are elected statewide, but must have lived in the district they want to represent for a year.

And it gets better. Echols wanted the map changed to include Tybee Island – so he could move there.

And guess what happened? That’s how the maps were drawn and signed by the governor.

Echols and Pridemore have declined to answer our questions about all this.

Meanwhile, Durand is facing disqualification because of the residency requirement. (She moved to Rockdale County to stay in the district, but hasn’t lived there for the required 12 months.)

A Fulton County judge stepped in to keep Durand from being disqualified. A court hearing is pending.

But back to Pridemore and Echols. Is this is how we expect the people who make these big decisions to behave – all while they earn $126,000 and serve six-year terms?

For that kind of money and tenure, Georgians deserve commissioners who are willing to put their record on the line and let voters decide. Especially now, as high inflation hammers Georgians and we will all be looking harder at our electric bills.

The Editorial Board.