PSC tenure done, Bentz starts new role at SMPDD

Leonard Bentz resigned from the Mississippi Public Service Commission at 7:59 a.m. Monday.

He officially started his new job as the executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District one minute later. Bentz confirmed the transition Tuesday morning.

“We had economic development meetings (Monday) and I’m on my way to Jackson now to meet with the Division of Medicaid,” he said in a phone interview. “We’ve hit the ground running.”

Bentz’ last meeting with the PSC was Aug. 13. He said afterward that he was comfortable with his decisions regarding Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant. He said then he hopes his successor will adhere to the agreement between regulators and the utility that holds the plant-related costs ratepayers will have to bear to $2.4 billion.

“I own Kemper,” he said then. “I believe it is the right thing to do.”

Bentz’ staff remains in place, he said, and will continue to operate the Southern District PSC office. The PSC will meet again Sept. 10. Ideally, a replacement will be named by then, but it’s not imperative that happen, Bentz said. Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint Bentz’ replacement. Bryant’s spokesperson Mick Bullock said in an email Tuesday morning that he wouldn’t speculate on a timetable for filling the post.

“The sooner the better, obviously, but I don’t think there will be any decisions that are pertinent at that meeting, but it would be nice,” Bentz said Tuesday. “Otherwise, it’ll be business as usual at my old office. My former chief of staff and the rest of the people there have been with the PSC a long time and are very capable of doing what needs to be done.”

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