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Gov. Rick Scott appoints lawmaker to Public Service Commission

State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City
State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Courtesy of MyFloridaHouse.gov

Four years after the state Senate rejected two of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s appointees to the Public Service Commission because they had no industry experience, Gov. Rick Scott has appointed state Rep. Jimmy Patronis to the same board, even though he, too, has no industry experience.

Patronis, 42, is a Panama City Republican who announced last year that he will step aside as a candidate in 2016 for the state Senate seat held by Senate President Don Gaetz, making room for Gaetz’s son, Matt Gaetz, to be the heir apparent. Patronis was also an early supporter of Scott's campaign against former Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Patronis, who is term-limited out of office this year, fills a seat now held by Eduardo Balbis on the board that has the power to approve utility rates in Florida. Balbis surprised observers in May when he announced that he would not seek a second term after being appointed to the post by Crist.

Balbis got the job after legislators sided with electric companies in 2010 to oust Crist appointees David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens, both of whom rejected controversial rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy, now known as Duke Energy Florida.

On Thursday, Scott also announced the reappointment of Tampa lawyer Julie Imanuel Brown, 39, from a list of six candidates sent to him by the legislatively-controlled PSC Nominating Council.

Commissioners are paid an annual salary of $131,036 and the appointments are subject to Senate approval.

Patronis is the vice president of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City Beach and listed no utility experience on his application for the job. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and was an early and avid supporter of Scott's first campaign for governor in 2010.

Scott held a rally last Friday at Patronis’ Panhandle restaurant with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Patronis is also a member of the panel evaluating the finalists for the FSU presidency.

Brown, 39, of Tampa, has been a PSC member since 2011 and is a University of Florida graduate. The two four-year terms begin Jan. 2, 2015, and end Jan. 1, 2019.

Among the candidates Scott rejected was former state Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, and Patrick Sheehan, director of the Office of Energy in the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Scott's appointment of Patronis shows how far he has shifted from being the outsider, who said in his 2010 Republican primary victory speech that “the deal-makers are crying in their cocktails.”

“Representative Patronis has faithfully served Florida families during his years of service in the Florida House of Representatives,’’ Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jimmy will make an excellent addition to the Public Service Commission as he continues to put Florida families first.”

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

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