Incumbent Public Service Commissioner Place 2 candidate Chip Beeker won the June 5 primary with ease garnering over 68 percent of the vote. But now that the primaries are over, the real battle has begun.
Beeker will now face Democratic nominee Kari Powell in the November 6 general election for the PSC seat.
With that in mind, here are the five things you need to know about Chip Beeker:
1. He’s a farmer by trade.
2. He was a county commissioner for 20 years.
First elected in 1986, Beeker served as a member of the Greene County Commission until 2006. During his time in office, he served as Chairman of the commission for ten years. He also served on several advisory boards throughout the Black Belt, coached basketball and baseball at Warrior Academy, and was selected as a Pillar of West Alabama by the Community Foundation of West Alabama.
3. He served in the National Guard for 8 years.
After graduating from Greene County High School, Beeker joined the National Guard where he served for eight years. He later went to college at the University of West Alabama.
4. He has actual experience working in the energy industry.
5. He seemingly sought to make a profit from his office.
Perhaps the most crucial of the five things to know about Beeker is that he seemingly sought to make a profit from his office.
In 2016 Beeker was interested in leasing his personal farm property — 451 acres he owns in Greene County — to a solar energy company, to Virginia-based Coronal Development Services, that planned to sell energy to Alabama Power for solar facilities. The conflict? The PSC regulates Alabama Power. For clarity’s sake, Coronal apparently did not know Beeker was a member of the PSC when the contract was offered.
Seeming to understand the potential ethics issue, Beeker first went to the PSC’s in-house ethics authority — administrative law judge John Garner — who told him he had every right to pursue the contract, but suggested Beeker seek the opinion of the Alabama Ethics Commission for a more definitive response.
The Commission ultimately told him no, he could not lease the land to the power company, saying they could not conclude that the lease wouldn’t present a conflict of interest between Beeker and his office.
The contract would have awarded his $500 an acre for at least 25 years. If Beeker had been able to lease all of the acreage available he could have made over $5.6 million over the course of the contract.
In a hope to save his name, Beeker relied on the fact that he first approached Garner, who said it was okay to pursue the contract.
“I would like to publicly say that everything I did, I did with the blessing of Judge Garner,” Beeker told Lagniappe Mobile. “When I got a call in the spring, could somebody come see me and look at something, I said, ‘I’ll let you know.’ And when I had his blessing and permission, I did.”
“I’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing but the letter of the law and the blessing of the judge,” Beeker continued. “Those are the facts and I appreciate being able to say that.”