By Ivan Penn
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Succinct profile of Elizabeth Echols, director of California’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates.
The gig: Elizabeth Echols, 56, is director of California’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the agency that represents consumers before the California Public Utilities Commission. She oversees 147 engineers, economists and financial experts who work for low utility rates for consumers. The Boston native who grew up in Berkeley was confirmed to the post in March.
Heroes: Echols is nothing if not passionate about the causes she pursues. Her mother, Jean Echols, an artist and educator in Berkeley, was her first inspiration. Observing her mother’s enduring focus on helping children served as an example. Then she found heroes in Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. “The reason for that is just their commitment and sacrifice for the goal of equality and equal opportunity. Both of them were prepared to die for the cause.”
Elite education: After graduating from Berkeley High School, Echols attended Yale University, from which she graduated in 1982 with a degree in economics and political science. “I had decided at a very young age that I wanted to go back East,” Echols said. But she eventually returned to the West Coast to earn her law degree from Stanford University in 1989.
Down under: For many years, Echols was never one to stay put too long. She loves to travel. That love carried her to Australia for a year on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to study economics after Yale. She once took a train for three days from city to city. “Taking the train across Australia sounds boring, but it was fascinating. Crossing the desert for three days, it was beautiful because you just see the different times of day … all the little tiny towns.”