Three of five Illinois commissioners are Hispanic
Acting Commissioner Sadzi Martha Oliva was appointed by Governor Rauner to a five-year term as ICC Commissioner in February 2017. Prior to joining the ICC, Oliva was General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. She served in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation as Ethics Officer, Administrative Law Judge and Chief of Medical Prosecutions. She also worked at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as the Chief Administrative Law Judge.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Commissioner Oliva, what about you? How did you get to this point?
Acting Commissioner Oliva: I'm an attorney, and my career has been in public service working for different state agencies in different capacities, including General Counsel, Ethics Officer and Administrative Law Judge. Most recently, I was general counsel for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
I believe that leaders and state government recognize a good work ethic and employees who follow policy and procedure. I've been recognized for my reputation as a dedicated public servant, willing to go beyond the four corners of my job description. To make things work better, and more efficiently for government agencies and the people that they serve.
PUF: What's an average day like at the Illinois Commerce Commission?
Oliva: My day starts out with my most important job - of being a mother. An average day begins with my mom duties, which include making lunch for my eight-year old son, helping him get ready for school, and then dropping him off.
Then I get on my train. I have a frenzied commute to work, and that's where I start reviewing and responding to emails, reviewing the dockets that I need to get ready for. Once I get to the Commission, I spend my day preparing for the upcoming public meetings, reviewing legislation or rulemaking, and meeting with stakeholders.
As the newest commissioner, and I'm still an acting commissioner, I'm learning about issues like rate setting, grid modernization, water company challenges, cybersecurity threats, and discussing relevant policy issues with staff.
Overall, my goal for anything I do is determining if there is a way to make things better. How can we make things better for the citizens of Illinois, and how can we make this agency run more efficiently?
PUF: We talked a little bit about how the Commission and the staff are diverse. They may be becoming even more diverse. How does that make a difference?
Oliva: As the first Latina appointed to serve in this role in Illinois, I feel that there's a unique opportunity and responsibility to contribute toward the elevation of women and Hispanics in this industry.
Today, there are still very few Latinos serving as public utility regulators nationwide. Illinois should be very proud of the fact that it is one of the most diverse Commissions in the nation.
Three of the five Illinois Commissioners in Illinois are Hispanic, and I think that's great for Illinois, and something to be truly proud of. It's leading by example and with intention. Governor Rauner, Chairman Sheahan, and especially Commissioner Edwards had a vision of making diversity a top priority here at the Commission.
PUF: As a younger person coming up, do you feel like there are some barriers?
Oliva: I've been an attorney for seventeen years, and I've also been very fortunate to have some great mentors along the way. Regardless of age, if you have a good work ethic and you set out to do what you put on your list of things to do, whether it's for the next six months or for that day, I think that is what matters most, and what people notice and respect you for.
PUF: You've not been here long, but are there any successes that you would point to and say, "That was a great day. I had an impact?"
Oliva: I looked at all our past annual reports at the Commission just to learn what the Commission's doing and what it's done in the past, what we should continue doing in the future. I went to the NARUC new commissioner training. That was wonderful, and I feel like I have a big family in NARUC, and a good resource. As a new commissioner, I hope to continue the good work of my colleagues. I want to follow their example of balancing the interests of the citizens of Illinois with the needs of the utilities, to keep their industries safe and reliable.
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.