5. Marybel Batjer
Marybel Batjer, who has served in an array of important government posts, is the president of the Public Utilities Commission and she’s on the hot seat – literally. After a lengthy investigation, the state Public Utilities Commission in May ordered a $1.9 billion fine against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the utility’s role in the catastrophic northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. It is the biggest fine ever levied by the PUC, and it followed an outpouring of public outrage directed at the giant, investor-owned utility. The five-member Commission’s vote was unanimous and Batjer is only one vote. But as president she has sway over much of the PUC’s operations and she sets the tone. She’s also close to Gov. Newsom, who named her to the job, and she’s a veteran of the Capitol’s interminable political wars. She served as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cabinet secretary, and before that, she was chief of staff to former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn. Prior to her stint at the PUC, Newsom picked her as the lead person and trouble shooter to overhaul California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Updated Aug. 11, 2020