At a time when the state’s chief regulatory organization is under heightened scrutiny and criticism, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday named a long-time confidant to head the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and a new commissioner on the five-member panel. The appointments are effective Jan. 1.

Michael Picker, 62, who was appointed to the regulatory commission by Brown in January, will succeed CPUC President Michael Peevey, whose 12-year run heading the regulatory agency ends Dec. 31 and is shrouded in controversy (see Daily GPI, Dec. 19).

In addition, Liane Randolph, 49, deputy secretary and general counsel at the state Natural Resources Agency, was named to fill the vacancy on the CPUC when Peevey leaves at year-end.

Picker’s association with the governor, who in November was elected to an unprecedented fourth term spanning two separate eras, goes back to Brown’s second term in office in 1981-1982. Picker subsequently served in several political appointee roles at the state and Sacramento city levels, as well as operating as a political and communications consultant from 2000 to 2009.

Most recently, Picker was an elected member of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s seven-member oversight board. In his first year on the CPUC, Picket maintained a relatively low profile in the midst public controversy swirling around Peevey and another colleague, Mike Florio (see Daily GPI, Oct. 17).

In announcing the appointments, Brown said Picker has both “deep experience and sound judgment,” and Randolph “has handled very difficult issues with insight and balance and will be a real asset to the commission.”

Randolph, a UCLA law school graduate who was an associate counsel for several years with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, a Los Angeles firm with long-time ties to Brown, was an attorney in private practice and a suburban city attorney in the San Francisco Bay area before working with various state agencies during the past decade.

The three other CPUC members are Florio, Catherine Sandoval and Carla Peterman.