John Bethel Retiring as PSC Executive Director; Rate Expert Leaving, Too


John Bethel is retiring from the Arkansas Public Service Commission after 18 years as the utility regulatory body's executive director, and he confirmed to Arkansas Business that one of the commission's top experts on rate issues, Matthew Klucher, is also departing in an unrelated move.

Bethel, who joined the PSC staff in 1988 and became its chief executive in 2000, announced his decision, first reported by Talk Business & Politics online, in an email to colleagues on Tuesday.

He told Arkansas Business in an email Wednesday morning that he will "pursue other interests," and that Klucher had resigned "to take another position."

Bethel, who has a bachelor's in business administration from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said his retirement will take effect April 30. "I am not able to provide further details about my plans at this time," he wrote.

"I am pursuing other career opportunities, and this is a step in that process," his email to the PSC staff said. "I will be able to share more about that in the future."

He called it "an honor and a privilege" to have served on the PSC staff for more than 29 years, and he called his work there rewarding, especially "the opportunity to work with an incredible group of people who have played a vital role in exploring, evaluating and implementing a number of significant public policy decisions."

One major pending policy decision is a forthcoming ruling on the rates utilities will pay for power generated on-site by rooftop solar and other private renewable energy facilities under the state's net metering system. The decision on whether utilities can pay less than their retail rate for power put back onto the grid has been called potentially momentous for the solar installation industry, the state's environment and the future of power companies who argue they must be compensated for the infrastructure costs of serving net-metering customers.

A decision in that case is expected in the coming weeks.

"I am proud of the years I have invested in this Agency," Bethel wrote. "I am convinced that this is the best state agency with the best employees. It is a great place to work, and I consider it an honor to be part of the PSC family and I will always treasure the time I have spent here and the accomplishments of the Agency during my career. I am confident that the team of dedicated and talented public servants who work here will continue the good work of the agency long after I am gone."

Before joining the PSC, Bethel was a financial analyst in the commercial lending division of Worthen Bank.

In answering questions about his plans, Bethel shot down some talk about departure plans by PSC Chairman Ted J. Thomas. "Ted Thomas is not leaving the commission," Bethel told Arkansas Business. 

Klucher, who spent more than five years as the agency's director of rate and demand resources, developed and coordinated the PSC staff's recommendations on utility filings. He joined the PSC in 2010 as a rate analyst, and held previous posts as an analyst at Windstream Communications and Alltel Corp. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.