Nelson elected to lead South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
PIERRE, S.D. – Commissioner Chris Nelson was elected chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 4 at the commission’s regular meeting in Pierre. Commissioner Kristie Fiegen was elected vice chairperson. The third member of the panel is Commissioner Gary Hanson.
Nelson was appointed to the PUC in January 2011 by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to fill a vacancy. He was elected in November 2012 to complete the remaining four years of that term and re-elected in November 2016 for a full, six-year term. Nelson served as the PUC’s chairman in 2012, 2015 and 2016 and as vice chairman in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020.
“Thank you for the trust you’ve given me to move into this position and lead over the next two years,” said Nelson. “It’s wonderful to work with two exceptionally dedicated commissioners. In addition to that, probably the highlight of leading this group is working with a staff that’s so absolutely dedicated to the wellbeing of the citizens of South Dakota and puts in the hard work to make that a reality. For a chairperson leading a commission, there’s nothing better,” he continued.
Nelson has a long history of public service. Prior to joining the PUC, he served two terms as South Dakota’s secretary of state. His career also included 13 years as the state election supervisor in the secretary of state’s office and two years as the uniform commercial code supervisor.
Nelson is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners where he is a leader on several committees, including service as a member of the association’s board of directors, chairman of the Broadband Expansion Task Force, co-chair of the Washington Action Committee, Investment Committee member and a past chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications. He has also been appointed by the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, representing the interests of NARUC.
Fiegen joined the PUC in August 2011 when she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the commission by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. She was elected to a six-year term in November 2012 and re-elected to a second term in November 2018. Her public service career also includes four terms as a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives and 17 years as president of Junior Achievement of South Dakota prior to joining the PUC.
Hanson reflected on Fiegen’s experience and contributions to the commission. “Having Commissioner Fiegen as a member of the commission has been nothing short of delightful. She has great wit. She shows great empathy toward consumers and has a strong understanding of how our decisions as a commission impact them. She has a very good head for the economics and challenges of everything from regional transmissions to rate making. It’s been a real pleasure having her on the commission,” Hanson stated.
Fiegen is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Gas and Subcommittee on Pipeline Safety. She is also president of Southwest Power Pool’s Regional State Committee and a member of the Gas Technology Institute’s Public Interest Advisory Committee.
“I’m so blessed to work with two amazing commissioners. Commissioners that are respected regionally and across the nation. They’re ethical, they’re responsible and they do what’s right for South Dakota every single day,” Fiegen said.
View full biographies of Commissioners Nelson, Fiegen and Hanson on the PUC website, www.puc.sd.gov.