Kristie Fiegen: I’m a ‘fighter’ for consumersThe Public Utilities Commissioner said she wants to be known as an opponent of excessive federal regulation and a champion of lower utility rates.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Kristie Fiegen said she wants to be known as an opponent of excessive federal regulation and a champion of lower utility rates.
Fiegen, 50, is seeking a full six-year term on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. Democratic candidate Matt McGovern and Libertarian candidate Russell Clarke are running against her.
“I was appointed to this position because of my integrity,” she said Monday during a stop in Mitchell. “I’m a fighter for the people.”
Fiegen said she is committed to keeping utility rates down and also wants to battle against federal regulation that she said harms people and businesses while impeding economic development.
Federal Communication Commission regulations released in November 2011 contain 752 pages of confusing, confounding rules that in many cases only harm companies, she said.
“I come to this with a conservative regulatory view,” Fiegen said.
She said the PUC impacts people’s lives daily and she is determined to make that a positive impact.
Fiegen campaigned across Mitchell on Monday.
She spoke to a history class and a government class at Mitchell Christian School, toured Vantage Point Solutions, where she met with Ross Petrick, the company’s director of consulting, and then toured the new Central Electric building.
She and Petrick discussed the FCC regulations, which both said are bad for business. They noted that telecommunications is a major business in Mitchell, and a growing piece of the state economic picture.
Shortly after she took office, the Anderson Seed Company problem fell into her lap. The Redfield sunflower seed company closed its doors owing farmers and other customers $2.6 million and had only posted a $100,000 bond with the state.
“Anderson Seed was licensed before I came to the PUC and was renewed before I came to the PUC,” Fiegen said.
“In January, we got the first call. And I have taken a leading role.”
She said new policies will force warehouses and grain buyers to be more transparent about their finances, and farmers are being educated to take payments soon after they turn their commodities over to the buyers.
Under state law, they can demand payment with 48 hours, and Fiegen said they should.
Bonds will be adjusted, and in some cases raised, she said. Anderson Seed was a lousy deal, she said, and it’s important to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Fiegen served eight years in the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000, representing District 11, the west side of Sioux Falls, in addition to some rural areas near where she grew up.
Fiegen was named to the PUC to replace Democrat Steve Kolbeck, who resigned in 2011 to accept a job with CenturyLink. Daugaard then surprised Fiegen with the offer to serve on the commission.
“She is just extremely bright, sharp,” Daugaard said when Fiegen took the oath of office.
Fiegen is the vice chairwoman of the PUC.
Former Secretary of State Chris Nelson, who was also appointed to the PUC in 2011, is the chairman. Nelson is running to serve the final four years of a term won by Mitchell resident Dusty Johnson in 2010.
Johnson resigned from the PUC to become Daugaard’s chief of staff. The third member of the commission is former Sioux Falls Mayor Gary Hanson.
All three commissioners are Republicans. Commissioners are paid $94,131.76. They serve six-year terms.
Fiegen is married to Tim Fiegen, an associate professor of education at Dakota State University in Madison. They live in Sioux Falls with their two sons, and Commissioner Fiegen rents an apartment in Pierre.