Obama names Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to FERC

President Obama nominated Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 11, 2009, to fill a seat vacated by the resignation of former Chairman Joseph Kelliher, a Republican.

Norris, most recently chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is former chief of staff to then Iowa Gov. Vilsack, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005-2009.

Identified in Iowa as an early supporter of Obama’s presidential campaign, Norris is husband of Jackie Norris, former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, who was recently named senior adviser to the Corporation on National and Community Service. At the time of Mrs. Norris’ appointment to the first lady’s staff, the Des Moines Register reported Norris said he was interested in a seat on FERC, possibly as chairman. 

The nomination shifts the five-member commission’s political balance to three Democrats and two Republicans from three Republicans and two Democrats.

In March, Obama designated Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff, a Nevada independent turned Democrat, to be commission chairman, succeeding Kelliher. (HydroWorld 4/20/09) The president also announced the nomination of Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, a New Mexico Democrat, to a third term.

The Republicans on the panel are Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona.

Norris is a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law in 1995, after receiving an undergraduate degree from Simpson College in Iowa. He served as chief of staff to Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, from 1997-1998, and from 1989-2003 owned a restaurant in Iowa.

Norris was co-chairman of the National Electricity Delivery Forum of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, president of the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator States, and held other regulatory agency memberships and positions.

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