On Tallahassee, PSC Chair Pulls No Punches

03/05/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today in Downtown St. Petersburg, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club heard from Nancy Argenziano, who some called one of the club's most outspoken guest speakers to date. The Public Service Commission Chair and former legislator shared her take on Tallahassee, and pulled no punches in doing so.

Behind her anecdotes of money and power at the capitol, Argenziano’s message to attendees was simple.

Argenziano is perhaps best known for sending a powerful lobbyist a twenty five pound box of cow manure in 2001. She did so, she explained, to show that lobbyists didn’t own her. Argenziano is blunt about what goes on at the state capitol.

The republican made headlines recently as one of the forces behind the PSC’s denial of rate increases for Progress Energy and Florida Power and Light. She said that while utilities do have to be healthy companies, legislators should not allow the millions of dollars they accept from the industry sway them from acting in the public interest. Honest people, she said, are often targeted in Tallahassee, and citizens need to look beyond flashy catch phrases and populist rhetoric when they choose their leaders.

She herself has become a target; Senate President Mike Haridopolus proposed last month to include a bachelor’s degree as a qualification to serve on - or in Argenziano’s case, seek re-appointment to - the PSC. Argenziano doesn’t have one. She dropped out of veterinary school to raise her son. Governor Crist, who appointed her, has said that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to have common sense.

Despite her fierce criticism of an institution that she says discourages honesty, Argenziano says it’s not hopeless.

Zene Holt an audience member and a democrat, said she found Argenziano’s fierce criticisms refreshing.

Lou Kubler, who sits on the Suncoast Tiger Bay Board of Directors, said that Argenziano was one of the most compelling speakers in recent memory.

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