Paul Kjellander is Senior Advisor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.
The agenda for the 1999 Summer Conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in San Francisco included resolutions addressing fluorescent bulbs, carbon-credit trading, and funding for nuclear waste disposal.
It was my first NARUC meeting as a newly minted Commissioner, and I felt out of place and in over my head as I stood at the registration table. I didn't know a soul. But that was about to change.
Within seconds of clipping my name tag on my suit jacket, I heard for the first time what would become a familiar and friendly voice. It was Alabama Commissioner Jim Sullivan who greeted me like he had known me forever. Before the conversation was over, Jim offered to help me settle in as a Commissioner, and above all, made me feel welcomed.
But Jim failed to mention one key fact. At the time, he was president of NARUC. Something I would learn when my new friend welcomed everyone at the conference's opening session.
Jim Sullivan had a way of making everyone in the room feel important. After he left the Alabama Public Service Commission, he continued to be a valued resource and friend as he became one of the most influential consultants in the regulatory space. But as visible and accessible as he was, Jim was a very private person.