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Behind the Limelight: An Interview with the Advisors for Five Key Regulators

Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1998

A PROMPT DECISION. Boss: FERC Commissioner Curt Hébert Jr. Background: Received undergraduate degree in accounting from Mississippi State University, then his J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law. Earned a masters in tax law from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Met Hébert while each was in law school. Represented local telephone companies in private practice before the Mississippi Public Service Commission. Hired in August 1996 as deputy administrator of the Mississippi Public Utilities agency, the state commission's sister group. Moved to FERC in December 1997 with Hébert to become one of his three advisers. Focuses on hydropower cases and some natural gas and electric issues. Age: 36.

Do you aspire to become a commissioner? At this stage of the game, we're all trying to do the job we have at hand. I'll be honest, I haven't thought about that at all. The commissioner positions in Mississippi are elected. I enjoy politics as much as everybody, but when it comes to making my living shaking hands and getting votes, that's not my style.

What's a typical day? What's your interaction with the commissioner? He and I both live in Maryland, so we both ride to work every day¼ around 7:10, 7:15 we get into the office.

We would leave [at night] probably around 6:30 or 7:00. We put in long days because we figure we have a lot to learn and a lot to read. This place is just packed with paperwork. The typical agenda is a two-week cycle. We have filing Friday¼ the items will begin to come in, you will have some heads up as to what the items are.

The day basically is reviewing those memorandums or reviewing those orders, discussing the issues¼ We meet regularly during the two-week cycle¼ as many as five times.

How are staffers hired? Is it true it pays to know someone? That's not necessarily true. When he was advised that he was going to be appointed, he asked me to come with him to be an adviser for him. When he got up here, he interviewed a number of lawyers on staff already here at FERC. [Hébert also hired Joshua Rokach, a long-term FERC staffer, and Kathleen Dias, a staffer for about five years.]

How does your personality reflect that of your boss? Kathleen and I are a little less aggressive than Josh and Curt. But it works well in the way we work together. As far as being used to his personality, on a personal level, he's not that way. In a business perspective, we want to make a good, informed decision. And sometimes you have to be aggressive to get the information since, the way everything is structured, you have to ask the right people the right questions to get the information you need to make a good decision. That's not always easy.

What have you learned in dealing with utilities or intervenors? We're dealing on such a national level, we had to change hats. That has been a process that has been ongoing. When you view something on the