U.S. Markets close in 2 hrs 48 mins

NC governor makes appointments to utilities board

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A Raleigh lawyer who has spent his career representing utility companies has been chosen to lead the state agency charged with representing utility customers.

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Chris Ayers Monday as the executive director of the public staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. McCrory also named state Rep. Jerry Dockham and Greensboro public relations consultant James Patterson to 8-year terms on the commission.

Ayers succeeds Robert Gruber, who's served in the position for 30 years.

The terms of commissioners William Culpepper and Lucy Allen expire June 30. While terms currently last eight years, a bill that could pass the General Assembly this year would limit terms to four years while the commission's size is reduced from seven to five members.

Ayers, Patterson and Dockham all are subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.

Poyner Spruill, Ayers' current employer, describes his expertise on its website as representation of electric, telecommunications, gas, water and wastewater utilities.

Dockham is vice-chair of the state House's Banking and Public Utilities and Energy Committee. Patterson's firm represents manufacturing, real estate and pharmaceutical companies.

Gruber said previously he was going to retire June 30. He earlier announced his retirement for 2011, but then-Gov. Beverly Perdue persuaded him to remain at the post longer in part to participate in the regulatory proceedings of the merger between Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy.

McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 28 years before becoming governor.