Elizabeth Echols, of Berkeley, was sworn in by Gov. Jerry Brown on March 28 as director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the independent consumer advocate within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Brown appointed her to the position last month.
Within the CPUC — which regulates privately owned utilities that provide telecommunications, electricity, natural gas and passenger transportation, among others — the ratepayer advocate's mission is to "obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels," according to its website.
The agency represents California's customers of landline and cellphone services, emergency communications, payphones, special equipment related to services for the deaf and disabled, broadband connections for schools and libraries, and subsidized basic broadband services for low-income individuals, among other services.
"I am honored to have the trust and confidence of Gov. Brown to lead ORA in achieving our mission and the state’s ambitious goals," Echols said.
Echols previously served as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Pacific Region from 2010 to 2013 and director of the Northern California Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council from 2009 to 2010.
According to the press announcement, Echols served as a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team from 2008 to 2009, director of policy at Google Inc. from 2004 to 2008 and chief executive officer at OpNet Community Ventures from 2001 to 2004. She was executive director of the E-Commerce Working Group at the White House from 1999 to 2001, senior advisor on telecommunications and Internet policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 1994 to 1999 and an associate at Steptoe and Johnson LLP from 1990 to 1994.
Echols was a candidate for state Assembly in 2014. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. The position must be confirmed by the Senate within one year.
“Elizabeth brings solid experience and sound judgment to an important job,” said Gov. Brown.