DeWine picks Democratic incumbent to keep serving as PUCO commissioner

    Gov. Mike DeWine has opted to give the Democrat incumbent on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio another term as commissioner. 

    DeWine made the unheralded selection as part of a slate of appointments announced by news release late Thursday afternoon. Lawrence Friedeman was picked to serve a full five-year term. He has served as a PUCO commissioner since 2017, when Gov. John Kasich chose him to fill an unexpired term.

    The Ohio Senate is expected to confirm the choice to make it official.

    Friedeman is a former vice president of regulatory affairs and compliance for IGS Energy, based in Dublin. 

    The other finalists included Ronald Russo, a Democrat with experience as a consultant on wind and solar projects; Stephen Serraino, an independent who serves as general counsel, corporate secretary and chief compliance/ethics officer for the Upper Peninsula Power Company; and Gerardo Torres, a Republican who serves as finance manager for the city of Cincinnati’s IT department. 

    The search began with 10 applicants to the commissioner position, which the PUCO Nominating Council narrowed down to five. The Council conducted interviews with those five, then sent DeWine the above list of four finalists. 

    The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, which has one vote on the Nominating Council, has criticized the commissioner appointment process and believes the position should be publicly elected. 

    OCC has also taken issue with several of the commissioners, including Friedeman, having worked for utilities before being tasked with regulating them.

    The Capital Journal is updating this story.

    Tyler Buchanan
    Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.