AUGUSTA, Maine&nbsp- A legislative committee endorsed Jack Cashman’s appointment to Maine’s Public Utilities Commission on Monday after business and labor representatives predicted he would bring a valuable perspective to the regulatory board.

Cashman is a former Old Town legislator who, for several years now, has served as an aide to Gov. John Baldacci on economic development issues. If confirmed by the full Senate, Cashman will join the two other people charged with regulating Maine’ s electric, water, gas and telecommunications utilities.

Several speakers acknowledged that Cashman’ s background in business and economic development makes him an atypical choice for the PUC, which historically has been dominated by lawyers and those with regulatory backgrounds.

But Cashman’ s supporters said his years of negotiating experience and knowledge of how energy prices directly affect the entire Maine economy will serve the PUC well as the commission enters a critical time in regards to energy.

“The decisions that get made in the next few months are going to have impacts on our children and grandchildren for many years and we need someone who, for lack of better words, is a renaissance man, or woman,” Sen. Peter Mills, R-Skowhegan, told members of the Utilities and Energy Committee.

By an 11-2 vote, committee members sent Cashman’ s nomination to the full Senate for consideration. Cashman would complete the term of former PUC chairman Kurt Adams, who left the commission earlier this year to work for First Wind, a large wind-energy company with several projects in Maine.

Cashman is a former commissioner of Maine’ s Department of Economic and Community Development who most recently served as Baldacci’ s senior economic adviser. Over the years, Cashman has often served as Baldacci’ s point person in negotiations with businesses, especially those on the brink of closure.

He has been heavily involved in efforts to keep open, reopen or remake mills in Lincoln, Brewer, Old Town and Millinocket.

Ed Gorham, president of the Maine AFL-CIO, praised Cashman for his support of the average working man. Representatives from several businesses or trade organizations, including Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay and the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, also testified in support of Cashman’ s nomination.

“I can’ t think of a better man for this job,” added Jake Ward, assistant vice president for research, economic development and government relations at the University of Maine.

Cashman said Maine needs to look at all options to lower its electricity rates, including encouraging renewable power and exploring additional energy partnerships with New Brunswick and Quebec.

“I know it’ s been a long time since a business person has been on the PUC,” Cashman told the committee. “But if you look at what we’ ve been through, say with FairPoint and Verizon, the biggest questions in the whole negotiation were financial.”

Committee members also peppered Cashman with questions on energy efficiency, Maine’ s involvement in the ISO-New England power grid, transmission line expansions and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The committee did not debate Cashman’ s nomination before voting. Afterward, Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland — one of the two lawmakers who voted no — described Cashman as a “gifted man.”

But Adams said he believes there were other candidates who would better exhibit the three qualities he wants to see in a commissioner, namely a willingness to act as a public advocate, knowledge of the regulatory environment and a “judicial temperament.”

Former longtime Maine public advocate Steve Ward said it is unusual but not unheard of to have PUC members with a strict business or economic development background.

Ward, who did not attend Monday’ s confirmation hearing and has not talked to Cashman about his nomination, said the key is for a commissioner to avoid falling into the “trap” of thinking of utilities as just another type of business.

Instead, Ward added, it is the role of the commissioners to act as a balance between the interests of the utilities’ shareholders and the interests of ratepayers.