Alex Radin, a true public power pioneer, died last Friday (April 11) at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 92.
Radin joined the American Public Power Association – a Washington lobbying group representing municipal, state, and customers of federally-owned utilities – in 1948, the third hire for the small organization, as an editor. In 1951, he became the head of the organization, which he continued to lead through 1986, when he retired because of the organization’s policy that employees must retire at age 65. He continued to play a role representing interests of public power systems as a private consultant for another 13 years.
As Public Power Daily (published by APPA) reported, “Radin built the association into a respected voice for the nation’s more than 2,000 not-for-profit public power utilities. The association emerged as an effective representative of public power interests before Congress, the White House and federal agencies and a source of information and services for the utilities it represented.”
That’s all true, although it comes from the organization he headed. I worked for APPA in the early 1990s, but not for Radin, who had retired by then.
But I knew Radin very well, as an energy reporter before he left APPA and as an energy reporter after I left APPA. He was one of the most decent, honest, and humble people I have ever come across. He was the antithesis of the popular image of the Washington lobbyist.
In the 1980s, when I was reporting for Energy Daily, I wrote an article saying the then-chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority had a reputation as a bad manager. That individual was outraged and called my publisher (who also owned the publication) to complain. To his credit, he called Radin, whom he also knew well, for his judgment.
To Radin’s credit, given that TVA was very important to APPA, since almost the entire state consisted of public power agencies delivering federal power to retail consumers. Radin said that my reporting was accurate; the TVA chief had a reputation as a dodgy manager, and the reputation was earned.
In the multitude of times over the years that I interviewed Radin for news stories, he never refused comment, never attacked public power’s many enemies personally, and never requested anonymity.
Radin was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1921 to parents who had emigrated from Russia to the U.S. A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he was a reporter in Tennessee before moving to Washington in 1941, where he worked in the Office of Price Administration and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he worked at the State Department before joining APPA.
I can only echo the words of Alan Richardson, who worked for Radin and his successor, Larry Hobart, before taking the top APPA job himself (where he was my boss): “Alex was a great man, a marvelous mentor, and a true friend. He will be missed dearly.”