By Johnny Jackson
Newly elected Georgia Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols, was recently appointed to a key position with a national, non-profit organization that studies and promotes policies on electricity supplies and use.
The 50-year-old Riverdale native is now a member of the Nuclear Issues-Waste Disposal subcommittee of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' Committee on Electricity.
Echols said he sought the subcommittee position, and a spot on NARUC's Consumer Affairs Committee, partly to learn more about the issues concerning citizens and the use of nuclear fuel.
"The safe disposal, and recycling, of spent nuclear fuel is the weak link in an otherwise wonderful source of carbon-free power," said Echols, "I want to work with utility regulators around the country to make sure we take advantage of the latest technology available to us.
"Georgia taxpayers have paid in at $1.5 billion -- and we're still paying into the federal Nuclear Waste Fund for the permanent disposal of nuclear wastes," Echols continued. "My ultimate plan is to see the money refunded to Georgia consumers, or to see it spent as it was allocated, for permanent disposal, or to see us recycling and reprocessing the [nuclear] wastes, like other countries do."
Echols said he plans to travel the state speaking to high school and college students, as well as civic groups, about the importance of reliable energy at low prices, and other aspects of his duties with NARUC and with the Georgia Public Service Commission. He added that his goal also is to tour every power plant owned by Georgia Power Company this year.
"I've been very encouraged, and a little bit overwhelmed with all that the Public Service Commission (PSC) does that the average citizen doesn't know about," said Echols, who is also chairman of the PSC's Transportation Committee and Facility Protection Committee.
Echols and his wife of 27 years, Windy, live in Winterville, Ga., with their seven children, all between the ages 10 and 21. He grew up in Riverdale in an entrepreneurial family that owned a car auction, dairy farm, and house-moving business. His grandfather, Ed Echols, was a county commissioner in Clayton County, and his father, Norman "Skeet" Echols, is a former county commissioner in Henry County.
Echols attended North Clayton High School, and then, the University of Georgia, where he received a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees.
He is a former commercial sales manager for Beaudry Ford in Atlanta, and is the founder of the non-profit organization Family Resource Network, and its TeenPact Program -- a citizenship group that, he said, has trained more than 23,000 youths in 38 states since its 1994 inception.
Echols said he aspires to lead the next generation by example. For alternative energy consumption, he said, his family installed a solar panel hot water heating system at its home in December, and bought a 1999 Honda Civic GX that runs exclusively on compressed natural gas.
"I made a promise to consumers that, if I was elected, I was going to lead the way in modeling alternative energy usage," he said.
Echols won the District 2 seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission during the November elections, campaigning on consumer protection, clean energy, and accountability.
"People have really embraced my work ethic, my conservative values, and my interest in pursuing renewable energy, and I'm very encouraged by that," Echols said. "I'm encouraged that a person with little political experience can go out there, present their message to the public, campaign hard, and win election to a statewide seat, with less than $100,000."