CPUC Commemorates Don Vial, Claire Dedrick

By Published On: May 7, 2005

Don Vial, former president of the California Public Utilities Commission and more recently a member of the disbanded California Power Authority, died last week. Vial, who was 81 years old, was a lifelong defender of labor rights and remained active in energy politics and regulation. ?Don was truly a great public servant,? said Mike Peevey, CPUC president, who along with his colleagues commemorated Vial?s life?s work May 5. They also paid tribute to Claire Dedrick, the first woman to sit on the CPUC, who also died last month. ?Don was the type of commissioner all of us should emulate; he was passionate about the public good,? CPUC member Geoffrey Brown said. Vial was a commissioner from 1983 to 1988 and CPUC president from 1984 to 1985. From 1950 to 1964, he was the director of the California Labor Federation, the state AFL-CIO network. Governor Jerry Brown named him secretary of labor. Mike Florio, The Utility Reform Network senior attorney, remembers Vial telling him as he was bemoaning a CPUC decision ?that had gone against me, ?It?s average justice, that?s the best we can do around here.? Those words have gotten me through a lot of dark days since then,? Florio said. Pat Mason, president of the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy. said, ?Don knew how to be a liberal?or ?unreconstructed Social Democrat,? as he called it?in a changing political environment.? Vial was CFEE?s chair until his death. ?He could simultaneously embrace liberal goals for society and be unintimidated intellectually to work with the economic and political reality of the day, with people who did not share his vision, to bring about a better result for the common man,? Mason added. Claire Dedrick, who held a doctorate in microbiology from Stanford, promoted the development of alternatives to fossil fuel while on the commission in the late 1970s. ?Claire paved the way for women to think they could sit on the commission,? said CPUC member Dian Grueneich. Dedrick also spearheaded the state proposition that created the California Coastal Commission. ?The wild and scenic open coast is her gift to the state of California,? Peevey said. In the mid-1970s, Brown appointed her to head the Resources Agency. She also served on the state?s Air Resources Board and was the executive director of the State Lands Commission.

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