Richard Gentry, a lobbyist and former longtime general counsel of the Florida Home Builders Association, was approved Tuesday to represent the public in utility regulatory cases.
Gentry was the only applicant interviewed by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight to serve as state public counsel. But committee members defended the process to fill the position, which drew four applicants, three of whom withdrew before interviews last week.
“I’m proud of the process that went on,” said Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican who is co-chairman of the committee. “And we can’t, once you open up a process of procurement, you can’t dictate what’s going to come your way. And we have a very qualified candidate.”
The position became open when Public Counsel J.R. Kelly resigned last month after serving in the job since 2007. Two of the applicants landed jobs between the time they submitted applications and the completion of background checks.
A third applicant dropped out over a requirement for the public counsel’s office to be in Leon County.
Gentry, who spent nearly 25 years as general counsel of the homebuilders’ group, said last week he viewed replacing Kelly as a way to serve the public. On Tuesday, Gentry admitted to being surprised at being the lone applicant to be interviewed for the position.
“I wondered from time to time if they knew something I didn’t know,” Gentry said before adding that he knows two of the other applicants and considered them “worthy opponents.”
Republished with permission from the News Service of Florida.