Sally Doty, the now-former state senator from Brookhaven, is stepping down from her legislative post after being appointed to Staff Director for the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff by Governor Tate Reeves.
The Public Utilities Staff was created in 1990 in order to represent the broad interest of the state by balancing the concerns of the residential, commercial, and industrial utility customers, the state agencies, and the public utilities.
Doty’s name was submitted for the position by one of the current public service commissioners—Brent Bailey, Dane Maxwell, or Brandon Presley—and eventually selected by Governor Tate Reeves due to the longtime senator’s experience as chair of the Senate Energy Committee.
“My name was on the list that was submitted to the governor, and I was fortunate enough that [Governor Reeves] chose me for this position,” Doty said. “I was chair of the Energy Committee, so I had dealings with the Public Utilities Staff. In fact, when I was chair, I had them come over and do a presentation on their jobs and what was involved because I think a lot of people don’t really understand the interplay between the Public Service Commission and the Public Utilities Staff.”
According to Doty, the Public Utilities Staff “really serves as the information-gathering arm” to the Public Service Commission. The two agencies were actually combined into one until the state legislature decided to make the entities separate during the 1990s.
“The Public Utilities Staff really serves as the information gathering arm, and they gather the information in order to be presented at the (Public Service) Commission for approval or disapproval,” she explained.
While Doty is moving away from the Senate, she won’t be moving too terribly far just yet as one of her first orders of business at the Public Utilities Staff is to administer and audit the funds that fall under the recent passage of Senate Bill 3046, or the “COVID-19 Connectivity Act.”
“Actually, one of the bills I’m working on now at the Public Utilities Staff is the broadband enabling act,” Doty said. “We set up a grant fund that the Public Utilities Staff will be handling and receiving all applications from co-ops and from other entities to expand broadband in Mississippi in response to the COVID crisis.”
The grant program implemented by the bill works with the state’s 26 member-owned electric co-ops, and for every dollar the co-ops spend on service expansion, the government will match—up to $65 million. Partnered with Senate Bill 3044 and House Bill 1788, the three pieces of legislation dedicate $265 million in total to distance learning and broadband expansion.
Governor Reeves will now set up a special election in order to fill Doty’s seat as District 39 Senator, and Doty says she will not be involved in the election process as she believes whoever her successor is will be qualified for the job.
“I’m not going to recommend anyone. I hear there are several very, very qualified people who are looking at running.”