Katrina Frye Shealy was the only woman in her insurance agency for years.
It turns out that that was useful experience for her political career. Today Shealy is the sole woman in the South Carolina Senate.
“It’s lonely sometimes with all the guys,” the conservative Republican told Insurance Journal about being the only female in the Senate.
She is not, however, the only insurance person in the Senate. Ross Turner (Turner Insurance Agency in Greenville) and Senate President John Courson (Keenan & Suggs in Columbia) both have insurance backgrounds.
Shealy has only been in the Senate for one 6-month session thus far, but she has been in the insurance agency business for almost 40 years.
She started out working as a high schooler in an agency owned by her father, who even though he owned it was not involved in the insurance business. He also owned and was involved in Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. While her father was not an insurance role model per se, he was one in other ways.
“My father, he was truly a strong business leader in the community and in the family. I really think that he was more my mentor as far as wanting to do good in the community, and he always liked to help people. I think that that’s probably where I got my strong background in wanting to help people. I think that that’s where it came from.”
When her father sold the agency she was busy raising a family and she stayed on with the new owners. Eventually she moved to another agency that specialized in the forestry industry, which has been her specialty for 30 years and remains so today. Shealy is currently vice president of production for Tower Street Insurance Advisors in Columbia.
She specializes in agriculture and forestry risks including logging, hunting clubs, timber land liabilities
“If you looked in my office, you’d see log trucks and skidders and loaders. That’s the kind of things that I do,” she told Insurance Journal.
She has managed to put her knowledge of the forestry industry to work in the Senate already, helping to pass legislation that eliminates a penalty on domestic loggers.
But she says if anything very specific to insurance agents ever comes up, she would recuse herself to avoid a conflict of interest.
The legislature meets from January to June every year. The salary is only $10,400 so most elected officials have to have another job.
Shealy sees similarities between insurance and politics.
“I just think that the interacting with people part, because that’s probably my favorite part about the insurance job, is interacting with people, being able to meet people and try and solve problems. Because insurance is all about solving problems, and I think that that’s what politics is about.”
There is also a similarity in the aspects of both jobs she does not like.
“I don’t like fundraising because I don’t like asking people for money. I don’t like doing that in the insurance business. It’s easy to sell it until you have to ask for the money.”
She acknowledges that being in the Senate has affected her insurance job.
“I don’t get to spend enough time at my real job,” she said.
She is still learning how to balance the demands of being an elected representative while also attending to her professional insurance job.
“I think that will come. The first year is the learning period, and I think that after the first year you’ll learn how to do that better. But the first year’s been a learning time,” Shealy said.
More articles in the Insurance Pros in Politics series from Insurance Journal: