Topeka Joe Harkins, a 40-year veteran of state government, has been appointed to the Kansas Corporation Commission by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Since February, Harkins, 68, of Lawrence, has been director of the Kansas Energy Office, a position to which he was appointed by Sebelius after serving as a special assistant to the governor.
He replaces Robert Krehbiel, whose term is set to expire Aug. 1. Sebelius wants the Kansas Gaming and Racing Commission to name him as the state's gambling czar to help oversee the development of state-owned resort casinos and slot machines at racetracks.
"Joe is someone who has committed his life to public service," Sebelius said in a statement. "He has a wealth of knowledge on the subjects handled by the commission as well as a vision for where this state can go in terms of renewable energy."
The other two commissioners are Chairman Tom Wright, appointed by Sebelius last year, and Michael Moffet, named by the governor in 2004. The commissioners serve four-year terms but can be reappointed.
The KCC regulates the energy, transportation and telecommunications industries within Kansas, including the setting of utility rates throughout the state.
As energy office director, Harkins worked on renewable energy projects such as solar and wind power, which has been a priority for the governor. The office also works to develop greater energy efficiency and conservation.
Sebelius has said she wants renewable resources - mostly wind - to represent 10 percent of the state's generating capacity by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020, goals she has been pushing since January.
His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation next year but must be approved by the Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee before he can be sworn in. The committee recommends appointments when the Senate isn't in session.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, the committee chairman, said the committee will meet either this month or next month and will consider Harkins appointment if it has received the paperwork from the governor's office.
Schmidt, R-Independence, didn't want to predict the outcome, but noted, "It's been a long time since the Senate has turned down a nominee."
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, the committee vice chairman, said the governor made a good choice with Harkins and sees no problem with him winning confirmation.
"He's well known and well respected around this building," Hensley, D-Topeka, said at the Statehouse.
Harkins has held various jobs, including secretary of the Department of Health and Environment and director of Kansas University's Public Management Center.
After his retirement from the university in 2003, Sebelius asked him to serve as director of the Kansas Water Office, dealing with such issues as protecting and restoring the state watersheds and developing regional water supply strategies throughout the state.
The governor then asked him in 2004 to serve as a special assistant focusing on natural resources and energy issues.