Travis Rose campaigns for PSC in Picayune on Wednesday

Published 2:41 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

Travis Rose, 30, of St. Martin near Ocean Springs, GOP candidate for Public Service Commissioner, Southern District, is running against incumbent Republican Leonard Bentz of Biloxi, and Rose says he is not sure even how much the job pays. He campaigned Wednesday in Picayune.

“I think its $70,000 to $80,000 a year. Not bad for a job where you meet only two times a month. I know it used to pay $47,000 but the commissioners had friends in the State Legislature who gave them a raise,” says Rose. “But I am not running for the money.”

Rose, who works in the telecommunications industry for MassTec, says it is not easy running against Bentz. First, he says, you have to explain to voters just what it is that the PSC does.

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“It operates mainly under the radar and gets little press,” says Rose.

“Most Mississippians are just not familiar with what it does,” he says.

The PSC has three members, one from the north, one from the central and one from the southern districts. It regulates telephone, electric, gas, water and sewer utilities. It is charged with assuring rates are just and reasonable, says Rose’s campaign literature.

“I remember telling a friend onetime at a ball game, ‘You see that guy over there. That’s Leonard Bentz. He determines what your utility bill is’,” said Rose.

Rose also maintains that the commission’s big decisions, like approving a billion-dollar power plant in Kemper County, get little press.

He also says his opponent, Bentz, voted against bidding out audits for major utilities in the state. He says the vote was 2-1, with Bentz voting no, and that when it was bid out, it saved taxpayers $700,000.

“You have to ask yourself why was he against that?” said Rose.

Rose said that he has only debated Bentz once so far during the campaign; that he criticized Bentz’s service on the commission; and that Bentz got up and told the crowd that everything Rose said was “hogwash.”

Rose said he became active in Jackson County politics, the Tea Party, and that he began trying to find candidates that would challenge Bentz, but he began thinking about running himself when a friend told him, “You aren’t going to find anyone; people don’t care; if you want someone to challenge Bentz, you will have to do it yourself.”

So he filed.

He says he juggles his job along with the campaign chores, mostly hitting the road on the weekends.

If Rose can beat Bentz, he faces opposition in the Nov. 8 General Election from Democrats, who are displeased with some commission decisions that they don’t think are environmentally friendly.

Rose says he will not stand by and continue with the status quo, that he will be a fair judge of the facts and not let special interests groups make his decisions, that he will take conservative values to the PSC, that he will hold hearings throughout the district any time a major rate increase is considered, and that he will oppose no-bid contracts.

Says Rose, “Our current commissioner has recently approved a power plant with costs over $2 billion at an estimated rate increase of 40 percent in just three years.”

The southern district covers Mississippi from Quitman down to the Gulf Coast, or 27 counties.

Northern District commissioner is Brandon Presley, and Central District commissioner is  Lynn Posey. The counties making up the southern district are Adams, Amite, Clark, Covington, Forrest, Franklin, George, Green, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Jeff Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Walthall, Wayne and Wilkinson.

Bentz was appointed by Gov. Barbour and four years ago won the seat outright, winning by a 12 percent vote margin. He will be hard to beat, say political pundits who watch the commission.