Illinois Commerce Commission: Commissioner John Rosales


“Everything we do has a reaction from the industry.”

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2017

PUF's Steve Mitnick: It's a big state, and it's a really a diverse state.

Commissioner Rosales: I totally agree with you. That includes geographic diversity as well. To have that type of perspective from the other parts of the state is meaningful. We need that. You can't have just one Chicago-centric team. We deeply benefit from our Springfield staff. You need the entire group to be diverse in several ways. We have it in gender and in race, but we also have it in geography, and I would say, even in tenure. 

What I was most surprised at when I first arrived and visited the Springfield office was the tenure of our team. In one department, I believe the median average was twenty years. God bless them all if they all decided to retire at the same time. But in any business model, that's a disaster waiting to happen. 

You bring in new talent, you need some folks that have been here and have some experience, and then you have the veterans. Veterans have that experience that you just can't purchase. You could bring in talent, but you earn experience. 

PUF: How do we attract people into the commission or into utilities? 

Rosales: I believe that given the incentive to look for top talent, we're able to find it. 

If you have that type of baseline talent, you can learn the rest. Since joining the ICC I have yet to see someone who is just not going to be able to cut it. We look for that talent in the beginning, and then that learning curve is important. Even if you're not experienced in the energy industry, you need to learn very quickly. 

But when you have that type of talent, for right now, it bodes very well. I appreciate that type of diversity, where you're not from the industry and you have different perspectives when you come in. I think they all bring different perspectives, and once you're able to put that together and move forward as a team, it works out very well. 

PUF: What's been a success for you? 

Rosales: I've seen the work we've done with our utilities in terms of diversity in hiring, diversity in procurement. I'm very comfortable that they realize this is not short-term work. 

By how we've structured ourselves as a team and how we've built ourselves up with our diversity, they see this is something that's good for business. They see they need to have this as part of their business model moving forward. That is something I'm very proud of. I see people on the street that I met in this business. They say, since you all have been there, there have been a lot of changes and they've all been good. 

I've never received feedback yet saying, "Ever since you guys did that, it's making it really hard for us as a business." I've never seen that type of feedback. The governor has been very clear on investing in business. We try to do that in every way we can, while balancing the interests of consumers. 

In terms of regulation, we understand that everything we do has a reaction from the industry. We make sure that whatever we do, we do it in a way that it's going to be best for all, and not to be burdensome on the business community and on utilities.

PUF: How does one become a public service commissioner?

Rosales: Part is political. But I think it's more about public service. If you are involved in your community, and if you're involved in public service, you're going to find a channel that you are going to enjoy. I started out as a community organizer, back when I first started in my career. 

I've always worked in a community. And whatever job I've had, even when I was in private business and running a Fortune 100 company, going back and hiring in our community was what was important to me. And any job that I had once I left the corporate world, working in education, working at the sheriff's department, I was always working with the community. I was hoping that I could make a difference. So, this was a natural progression when I got the call from the governor. 

PUF: What's in the future for you? Is there anything left to accomplish? 

Rosales: Oh, there's so much more to accomplish. We're not even halfway yet. There's so much, in terms of smart cities and the smart grid that we're debating. It's a great time to be here and it's very exciting.

An Inside Look at the Illinois Commerce Commission: Interviews with Chairman Brien Sheahan, Commissioner Sherina Maye Edwards, Commissioner John Rosales, Acting Commissioner Sadzi Oliva and Executive Director Cholly Smith.