The Good, the Bad and the Interesting: Evaluating the applicants for Florida insurance commissioner
Insurance alarm


Replacing Commissioner Kevin McCarty of the Office of Insurance Regulation is shaping up to be a challenge. Dozens of candidates, offering what can be called (charitably) a broad range of credentials, have thrown their names in the hat.

So the process of choosing a new OIR leader, now that it is well underway, will prove — if anything — interesting.

Midnight Friday was the deadline for interested applicants to submit resumes for consideration by the Cabinet; 55 candidates in total have applied.

An initial scan of the applicant pool, however, yields few standouts; in fact, some resumes will have you scratching your head.

With the application period closed, cabinet aides will meet March 23 to discuss their preferred candidate before bringing them forward for public interviews at the scheduled cabinet meeting March 29.

According to Florida statutes, the Director of the Office of Insurance Regulation must have: “(Within the previous 10 years, at least five years of responsible private sector experience working full time in areas within the scope of the subject matter jurisdiction of the Office of Insurance Regulation, or at least five years of experience as a senior examiner or other senior employee of a state or federal agency having regulatory responsibility over insurers or insurance agencies.”

With that, here is the “Good, the Bad, and the Interesting: the OIR Commissioner Edition.”

The Good:

Jeffrey Bragg: This one’s a toughie. While the now-retired Bragg has served in senior positions with the likes of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Zurich, since 2003 he has served as the Director of the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. As such, his full-time private sector experience has not been within the last 10 years, and “TRIP” is not necessarily a “federal agency having regulatory responsibility over insurers or insurance agencies.” According to its website, TRIP is “a temporary federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation for certain insured losses resulting from a certified act of terrorism.” Our sources tell us that it does not exert regulatory authority over insurers.

Richard Ford: Ford is a Chief Examiner at the Alabama Department of Insurance. He is an attorney with working knowledge of the NAIC and the legislative process, as it relates to Alabama. While this would be a big jump to go from Chief Examiner to Commissioner of one of the largest states in the country, Ford meets the statutory requirements.

Bill Hager: Former Iowa Insurance Commissioner to still-serving Republican Governor Terry Branstad, current member of the Florida House representing District 89, and former President & CEO of NCCI, the national workers’ compensation advisory association, Rep. Hager’s operation of a full-time insurance expert witness and reinsurance arbitration practice clear the statutory hurdles. In a cover letter, Hager expands upon his insurance career, writing that the Commissioner of Insurance vacancy also “presents a unique opportunity to continue [his public service].” Hager also attached a four-page addendum describing his experience in virtually every area oversaw by OIR.

Belinda Miller: A force in her own right, Miller is one of the smartest and knowledgeable people in insurance regulation today. The long-standing General Counsel and current Chief of Staff of OIR, Miller is one of McCarty’s closest allies. Her ties to McCarty and record as a super voting Democrat may not put her views for moving OIR forward in line with those on the conservative cabinet.

Chlora Lindley-Myers: Currently Deputy Commissioner for Tennessee’s Insurance Department, and formerly employed by the NAIC and Kentucky Department of Insurance. Her career path took an unusual turn when she did a stint as a public defender from 2006-2011. While meeting the application standards, it is unclear how a Deputy Commissioner of a smaller state would translate to a more elevated position in a much larger, arguably much more complex, state.

James Schact: A Northwestern real estate graduate, Schact likely qualifies, although his application is abbreviated. He represents that he served as Chief Deputy Director and Director for the Illinois Department of Insurance and headed up a private insurance consulting practice. He requests a $175,000 salary and his website advertises his company as the Schact Group, assisting companies such as Kemper Insurance, Lumbermen’s Mutual and Triad Guaranty Insurance Corp.

John Rollins: A well-respected actuary and the current Chief Risk Officer of Citizens, Rollins is most definitely a subject matter expert when it comes to property, specifically catastrophe, insurance. Rollins is a frequent presenter at legislative committees and highly regarded for his steady hand as an employee and former Board Member of Citizens. Here’s where it gets interesting though. Citizens is not a regulatory body having responsibility over other insurers, nor is it technically within the private sector. However, it is likely that Rollins experience at AIR Worldwide and Rollins Analytics would qualify him.

The Bad:

Pamela Kiser-Burch: Currently Director of Human Resources for Tri-Eagle Sales, who lists a strong working knowledge of OSHA requirements among her skills. Although she is statutorily unqualified, she might be a crowd favorite for the employees of OIR if she promises to cover happy hour.

Krystle Russell:  Russell’s cover letter says she is “seeking the position of a Claims Supervisor of Manager where [she] gets to perform and oversee complex claims investigations.” It appears she applied for the wrong position.

Joseph Watts: Watts reports that he does not qualify, and as a current Customer Service Rep for Bright House Networks, he is likely correct.

The Interesting:

Wilbur Martin: Asking $250,000, (the salary cap is set at $200,000 for the position) this former Farmers and Bankers insurance executive (if that name rings a bell, here’s why), who left the latter company due to its “new direction,” wins the award for most interesting cover letter. In addition to being critical of fellow applicants Belinda Miller and Ray Blacklidge, as well as speculative applicant Commissioner Bryan Nelson, Martin says that his “candidacy is an appeal to the Cabinet to employ a different leader,” saying that “innovation is the unintended victim of an overreaching bureaucracy.” His proposals to “reduce the residual market to more than 1 percent of policyholders,” is likely to draw the ire of the Southeast Florida delegation, and it is unclear whether his goal to increase the amount of fraud uncovered is a shot at CFO Jeff Atwater, who by all accounts has done a number on insurance fraudsters during his term.

Editor’s note: Martin, in an email response to the post, says may have “misread the compliments (versus criticisms) intended by the cover letter” and says “Belinda, Bryan, Ray and others are great candidates for Commissioner – maybe much more qualified than me.” Martin notes that they are “different candidates” in that they bring regulatory and/or legislative experience he does not have.

“However,” Martin adds, “if the Cabinet wishes to make a cultural change in how the market is regulated – such as an outsider with a commitment to making free markets work for citizens, consumers and/or policyholders – they might select a candidate with credentials like mine.”

Andrew Persac: Persac notes that he does not qualify, but still submitted an 84-page application including a research paper where he purports to “explain the G-12 Cell Vision in general, the Vision and how it relates to More Than Conquerors, the concept of ‘The Ladder of Success,’ and most importantly, how to use this strategy to reach out to and win the lost to Jesus.” Not sure OIR is his platform.

Andrew Wolf: Wolf currently resides in Mexico. He is looking is “looking to take on one mission, work with one employer and better utilize [his] talents and [experience],” Under the knowledge/skills/abilities section of his application Wolf boasts, “I have experience penetrating at the highest levels to get the job done … from convincing the Minister of … to cultivating government officials in Mexico.” Unfortunately, his background precludes him from doing this as the next Florida Insurance Commissioner, but we wish him well in his endeavors.

The full list of nominees, with qualifications — such as they are — in order of application:

Keith Meredith: A commercial insurance agent since 2003, Keith has also served as a case manager in a juvenile facility and a bag screening trainer for the TSA. His agent responsibilities include “taking payments, making policy changes, renewing current policies …. and writing new business …”

Chris Gallo: Currently a financial examiner at the Connecticut Insurance Department, Gallo lacks private sector and Florida-based experience, the former we’re hearing is very important to Governor Scott.

David Altmaier: An employee of OIR since 2008 who has worked his way to Deputy Commissioner of Property & Casualty Insurance after the departure of Rich Koon, Altmaier states that he is “[s]eeking the position of Insurance Commissioner that capitalizes on a decade of analytical and managerial experience in the Florida insurance market.” Altmaier has recently risen to the managerial ranks of the organization, and is well-respected for his depth of knowledge, it will be interesting to see whether his experience as Deputy Commissioner since March 2015 will provide sufficient comfort for the Florida Cabinet. Regardless of the outcome of the Commissioner context, Altmaier’s future is bright, along with other rising OIR talent, such as Eric Johnson.

Bill Hager: See above.

Denise Engle: A recent addition to Arthur Gallagher’s Risk Management team in Oklahoma City, she also worked for the Oklahoma Insurance Department for two years, and in that capacity, sat on an advisory workers’ compensation commission. While that experience cannot qualify her under the senior employee of a state agency with regulatory responsibility, it is unclear whether the operation of her own agency — Engle Risk Services — from 2007 to 2011 will qualify as five years working on subjects “within the scope of the Office of Insurance Regulation.”

John Rollins: See above.

Scott Kipper: From Alexandria, Virginia and asking $200,000, Kipper is currently the VP of State Affairs for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. Previously, he served from October 2011 to July 2015 for the Nevada Division of Insurance — not quite the five years required in the last 10 years. Kipper does state that he worked in Oregon and Louisiana (Ron Henderson?) but does not attach a resume confirming the time frames.

Rich Robleto: Nice guy Rich Robleto, currently serving as Deputy Commissioner of Life & Health for OIR (and, in that role, Eric Johnson, applicant #41’s boss), has experience at Florida Healthy Kids and the Florida Association of Health Plans. While Robleto does not have significant property & casualty experience, he is a well-respected veteran regulator. It will be interesting to see whether the Florida Cabinet takes a hard look at anyone who was a member of McCarty’s administration, or whether they’ll be searching for new blood.

Wilbur Martin: See above.

Carla D’Andre: Impressive repertoire with Swiss Re, XL, Aon and Willis. However, appears to have been let go from Willis before starting her own insurance agency. Unlikely to qualify under the statutory requirements because only two of her last 10 years were with an underwriter; the remainder was working as an insurance agent, and agent & agency licensing is not “within the subject matter” of OIR.

Chlora Lindley-Myers: See above.

James Schact: See above.

Ray Blacklidge: Long-standing General Counsel of domestic homeowner’s insurance company, and a current client of Fred Karlinsky’s, Ray’s professional experience is deep on the property side, but no information is given about experience in other lines of insurance. However, in his resume, Blacklidge represents that he is a “national expert on no-fault automobile insurance” due to his service on the Florida Insurance Council’s (FIC) auto-related committees and versed in other lines as a licensed agent.

Editor’s note: In an email to, Blacklidge clarified several of his relevant qualifications, which include serving from 1992 to 1996 in the Alliance of American Insurers, a national trade association representing 270 property and casualty insurance companies. It was during that time, he says he earned the national reputation mentioned above. He has also been a licensed Florida Heath, Life and Variable Annuity Agent since 2001, and has membership in the Society of Financial Service Professionals, the National Association of Fraternal Insurance Counsellors and the Fraternal Field Managers Association. Blackridge also notes he is a former Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, LLC Florida Title Insurance Agent and Illinois Title Insurance Agent and has been active in Fraternal Benefit Societies since 1981. During his tenure at Alliance of American Insurers, Blacklidge says he helped pass major workers compensation reform in both Tennessee and Georgia.

Maria Anello: A graduate of Miami-Dade College in 1980, Anello is a longtime insurance agent, and thus, unlikely to qualify under the technical application of Section 20.121, F.S.

Eric Johnson: A Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics punctuates impressive academic experience, and, since 2011, Johnson has worked at OIR and currently serves as the Chief Life & Health Actuary for OIR. Clearly a bright guy, Johnson appears to not have significant managerial or private sector experience.

Belinda Miller: See above.

Raquel Rowe: A graduate of the University of Phoenix and life, health and annuity agent, Rowe’s career path likely disqualifies her from consideration.

Richard Ramos: Ramos is the Assistant Chief Examiner of the Nebraska Insurance Examinations Division, but he did not provide a lot of detail on his professional experience.

Richard Ford: Qualifies Another Chief Examiner at the Alabama Department of Insurance, Ford is also a lawyer. It will be interesting to see if lower-level management types at insurance departments in smaller states will be entertained.

Dulce Suarez-Resnick: An insurance agent with no collegiate educational background noted, Suarez-Resnick likely does not qualify.

Mitchell Levin: An Orlando-based insurance agent, likely does not qualify.

Andrew Hill: A Massachusetts resident and former accountant for AIG, Hill’s most recent work experience was small business consulting, not necessarily in insurance, and appears to have been out of work since September 2013.

Drina Gilyard: A TCC and University of Phoenix graduate, Gilyard served in the Army before studying Bookkeeping at Lively in Tallahassee. A former employee of DEP and currently employee of DOH, Gilyard does not qualify.

Michael Moriarty: A resident of Galveston, Texas, Moriarty is a former director of American National Insurance and currently a self-employed litigation consultant. Heavy on health insurance experience.

Paul Harris: An FSU business major, Harris runs a business consulting firm. He lists his status as a life & health agent and “work[ing] with multiple carriers with individuals and groups” as qualifying experience, but that is unlikely to be compliant with Florida law.

Joseph Watts: See above.

Hyacinth Washington: Washington is a longtime bail bonds agent in Bartow, FL and thus, disqualified from applying.

Krystle Russell: See above.

Andrew Persac: See above.

Arnold Braun: A New Jersey-based General Counsel to Everest Re, this lawyer appears to be experienced in mergers and acquisitions.

Joseph Seaton: A current marketing professional, his employment at Protective Life Insurance, Mass Mutual Retirement Income, and Jackson National Life may arguably make him statutorily eligible. However, these positions were mostly sales-related. Also, Seaton reports that he is only interested in moving to Lake, Sarasota and Manatee counties. OIR’s home base is in Leon County.

Brittany Varn: Varn reports that she does not qualify and is currently an environmental staff engineer for EHS Support in Havana, Florida.

Kirk Bell: A veteran of the U.S. Marines, Bell’s positions as a personnel tech at DCF and the Commission on Human Relations disqualify him from consideration.

Linda deGinder: A longtime insurance agent who lists her educational background as “FAIA and PIA Insurance Schools,” deGiner is unlikely to get a second look.

Russell Wynn: A current employee of the Department of Corrections, Wynn says that he is qualified because as a “Senior Classification Release Officer from four major institutions from 1992 to present …[t]hat has got to count for something!”

Wayne Fletcher: Within the last 10 years, Fletcher has spent roughly 4 as an Executive VP at Northern Capital helping operate a Managing General Agency, one as a Risk Manager at Rialto Capitol Lennar Homes, two as the director of professional development at Central Insurance School, and one as G & G Holding Group. Several employers in 10 years and unclear as to Fletcher’s experience in various lines of insurance.

Robert Bryant: Arguably qualified as the president & CEO of Actuarial Systems Group. Bryant spends his time managing the consultant group doing “[f]inancial reporting, taxes, budgeting, payroll and contract management.”

Richard Sitkus: Currently serving as the Director of Lehigh County, PA, Sitkus also has several years’ experience in sales for AAA and Prudential.

Justin Hanna: A Fort Myers insurance agent and likely futurist, who has been employed with Integrity Insurance International from October 2007 to December 2050.

Jeffrey Bragg: See above.

Jesse Padilla: An attorney with the Illinois Agricultural Association since 2008, Padilla is an attorney who writes that he has a “strong understanding of insurance products, insurance operations, and the legal and regulatory framework related to the business of insurance through [his] role as in-house legal counsel for Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000 insurance companies.” The only carrier for whom he lists employment is Allstate, where he served as an Assistant Counsel.

Ingrid Datena: Datena writes that she has “23 years in the insurance business,” yet since 2005, she has owned her own payroll and tax service business.

Mary Therese Sheehy: Sheehy writes that she has “national 50-state plus federal insurance trade organizations — familiar with most lines of insurance — extensive public policy background,” yet on her resume writes that she is a “seasoned management and public affairs expert.” Her employment background includes the Illinois Pharmacists Association and American Society of Clinic Hypnosis.

Michael Federico: A Las Vegas resident who will accept a minimum of $150,000 to relocate, Federico’s law practice appears to disqualify him from consideration.

Matthew Pridgen: Pridgen’s experience as a teacher and abuse counselor with DCF is commendable, however, even if he were to qualify under the statute, it is unlikely the Florida Cabinet would interview “a self-starter” who is “eager to learn new things.”

Madeleine Burroughs: Burrough’s resume lists her as an “Insurance Specialist/Business Development Manager/Sales Manager,” yet her experience seems to be as a sales representative, insurance agent and marketing consultant.

Jibri Knight: An insurance agent who has worked for Direct General in their direct sales operation, Knight is “[s]eeking the opportunity to continue to excel in insurance sales, adjusting, and/or management.”

David Kaufman: Proving that Peoples First’s reach is significant, this Anchorage-based employee benefits specialist is unlikely to get a second look. Although, the Governor’s focus on moving people to Florida may equate to at least a preliminary interview.

Kirk Schmidt: Missouri-based President & CFO of Cornerstone National, Schmidt “manage[s] the entire financial operations of the company including financial reporting, handling independent and state audits, budgeting, cash management and investments.” His additional experience taking over “Human Resources and Fleet Management, as well as being involved now in facilities management,” is probably unlikely to get any attention, other than the fact that the Larson Building is likely in need of some interior redecorating.

Andrew Wolf: See above.

Brian Nyland: Nyland currently serves as Head of Actuarial Projects for a company called Bupa and previously served as an actuary for Allstate. His resume does not list any significant managerial experience, although his actuarial background is impressive.

Richard McCarty: Despite the name, no relation to the current Commissioner, McCarty is a Connecticut resident working as the SVP & General Counsel for XL America, and asks $150,000 as a minimum acceptable salary.

Pamela Kiser-Burch: See above.

Michael Hoffman: Commanding a minimum of $200,000, this Pennsylvania insurance agent does not appear to have experience working within the scope of the subject matter jurisdiction of the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Adrian Ferguson Anyamele: The first applicant, he (she?) reports that she does not meet the qualifications, and the jobs at TCC, FAMU, and AIA Consulting Group appear to confirm that analysis.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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