John Norris gets the Washington job he wanted

I saw at Radio Iowa that President Barack Obama has nominated important early Iowa supporter John Norris to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He’s well qualified for the job, as you’ll see from his official bio, which I’ve posted after the jump. Not only was Norris chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005 to 2009, he also handled different positions with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator States.

Norris has been Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff since January, but he requested an appointment on the FERC in November, before Obama had named Vilsack to head the USDA. Although Norris has worked closely with Vilsack before as the governor’s chief of staff, the FERC position seems like a better fit for the more recent focus of Norris’s career.

I’m guessing that FERC commissioners also work less insane hours than chiefs of staff do. Norris and his wife Jackie Norris have three sons under the age of six. Jackie Norris recently was replaced as First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and will serve as senior adviser to the Corporation on National and Community Service.

LATE UPDATE: The Des Moines Register reported on June 21,

Norris said he always planned to move on from the USDA, because his real goal was a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an appointment he now has in hand. He’s waiting for Senate confirmation for that position.

Norris said Vilsack asked him to take the USDA job, knowing it would be temporary. He “wanted someone who knew him and someone he trusted to get set up at USDA.”

Norris said he tried to set up a staff that would work together across their various areas of responsibility, avoiding turf wars. “This isn’t a speedboat. It’s a tanker and you have to slowly bring it around,” he said.

Excerpt from the White House press release of June 10 announcing the nomination of John Norris:

John R. Norris, Nominee for Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

John R. Norris is currently serving as Chief of Staff for Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Prior to joining the USDA, Norris served as Chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) from 2005 to 2009.  As a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) he worked on the Electricity Committee and was Co-Chair of the 2009 National Electricity Delivery Forum.  He served as a Board Member, Secretary and President of the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) States as well as Chairman of the MISO Demand Response Working Group.  He also was a member of the FERC/NARUC Demand Response Collaborative.  Norris was on the Board of Directors of the National Regulatory Research Institute, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Iowa Power Fund and served on the Advisory Councils of the Iowa Energy Center, the Financial Research Institute for the University of Missouri College of Business and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa.  In 1999 and 2000 he was Chairman of the Iowa Electric Restructuring Task Force while serving as Chief of Staff for then Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.  Norris also worked for U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-3rd) as Boswell’s Chief of Staff from 1997 to 1998.  From 1989 to 2003 he owned and managed a restaurant in Greenfield, Iowa and he was State Director of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition during the Farm Crisis of the 1980’s.  Norris graduated with distinction from the College of Law at the University of Iowa in 1995 and received his undergraduate degree in 1981 from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.

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