PSC Chairman Robert Kenney announces August departure

Missouri Public Service Commissioners Chairman Robert Kenney said Monday he'll leave the PSC on Aug. 7, at the end of his six-year term.

"I've done a lot of what I had wanted to accomplish as a member of the commission, and as chairman of the commission," Kenney, 43, told the News Tribune Monday afternoon.

"And I'm looking forward to pursuing some opportunities in the private sector."

Kenney said he's "not leaving because I don't love the job. It's just a good time to leave.

"I think I'm the right age - and I want to take the time to see how I can apply the skills and knowledge that I've gained over the last years, in the private sector."

For many years, state law required commissioners to live within 40 miles of the capital, but that was changed in 2009.

Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Kenney to the PSC in July 2009, then named him chairman in March 2013.

And Kenney kept his home in South St. Louis, commuting to Jefferson City when necessary.

"The only thing I won't miss will be the occasional drive to Jefferson City," he said. "I've spent a lot of time in my automobile the last six years, and I've put an average of 35,000 miles on my car every year."

Leaving the PSC should allow him to spend more time with his wife of 11 years, Michelle, and their two children - a daughter who turns 11 in a few weeks and a son, 7.

"Having small kids and a family makes you want to, at some point, pursue opportunities in the private sector, as well," Kenney said.

The PSC has been involved in some controversial decisions, including its recent order raising rates for all Ameren Missouri electric customers except the Noranda Aluminum smelter in New Madrid, which was given a lower rate than it already had.

"Honestly, the timing has nothing to do with any of the cases that are currently before us or that we've just recently concluded and decided," Kenney said. "We've had a tremendous number of unique, complex, challenging cases in front of us.

"The Ameren case - and the Noranda issues surrounding that case - are one such case, but we've had others and, frankly, putting the politics of those cases aside, they are important from a public policy standpoint.

"And I've appreciated the opportunity to deal with those types of complex challenges."

In a statement Monday afternoon, Nixon said: "During his public career with the PSC and with the attorney general's office, Robert Kenney has always worked on behalf of the interests of the people of Missouri. He has led the PSC as it has strived to ensure a reliable energy supply at the lowest possible cost to consumers.

"Over the last six years, he has emerged as a nationally-recognized leader in public utility regulation. I appreciate what Robert has accomplished for our state, and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Kenney said he doesn't have a specific job lined up, "but I'm also looking at remaining involved in public utility regulation in some way, shape or form. ... I have an idea of exactly what I want to do - it's just a matter of where I'm going to do it.

"So, I fully expect that I will remain involved in public utility regulation and law and public policy, and continue to use my skills and knowledge that I have gained over the last six years, in service to clients."

Kenney thanked Nixon for his appointments, and told the News Tribune: "This is the best job I've ever had, and I've loved it immensely.

"It is some of the most interesting, complicated, complex public policy work I've ever done."

Kenney is one of only two lawyers currently serving on the five-member commission.

"When I started on the commission, all five of us were lawyers," he recalled. "Now, there are two lawyers and three non-lawyers.

"And, I think that mixture is less significant than what's really most significant - that you have thoughtful, deliberate public policy practitioners who are willing to take the time to learn and study the issues that come before us."

All of the commissioners he's worked with in the last six years "fit that bill," Kenney said. "We don't always agree on the outcome of a particular issue, but I've never questioned whether they've devoted the appropriate amount of time and attention to carefully analyzing the issues.

"So, I really think it depends on the person, and I think that Gov. Nixon has done a very good job of appointing thoughtful and deliberate public policy professionals."

Kenney's resignation means Nixon will appoint both a new commissioner and a new chairman.

Nixon's office said Monday they weren't in a position to say whether one new appointee would fill both jobs or if one of the current commissioners would be named chairman.

Whoever Nixon names, Kenney said, "My advice would be to always be willing to continue learning. That's one of the things that has kept this job so incredibly fascinating and interesting. ...

"You have to be intellectually curious and you have to be willing to constantly be learning."