Florida to Interview 2 More for Insurance Commissioner, McCarty Delays Departure

By | April 22, 2016

The Florida Cabinet will interview two new candidates for the soon-to-be-open Florida insurance commissioner post at its April 26 meeting, in addition to the two candidates interviewed last month.

In the meantime, current Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty notified the Cabinet April 20 that he will delay his departure from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) until 45 days after a replacement has been selected.

Jeffrey Bragg and Bill Hager – who were interviewed at the Cabinet’s previous meeting in March – were asked to return to be re-interviewed at the next Cabinet meeting. Belinda Miller, current chief of staff for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), and Raymond Blacklidge, EVP of American Traditions Insurance Co. and Modern USA Insurance Co., will be also be interviewed at Tuesday’s meeting.

McCarty announced back in January that he would resign effective May 2. The Cabinet, which consists of Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, then opened up an online application with the plan to appoint a successor at its March 29 meeting. The goal, they said at the time, was to have someone chosen before McCarty left office and in time for the start of hurricane season.

However, after interviewing Bragg, the former head of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, and Florida State Rep. Hager on March 29, Scott shot down Atwater’s nomination of Hager for the position. The Cabinet needs to reach a unanimous decision on the choice with Atwater and Scott’s votes carrying the most weight.

The Cabinet members instead decided to reopen the application process to allow for more candidates to apply and more time for the Cabinet members to make a decision. The application deadline was extended until April 15. Sixteen additional candidates applied during that time, bringing the total number of applicants to 71.

Gov. Rick Scott’s aide Kristin Olson said April 20 he would like to interview Bragg again on April 26 and have him considered by the other Cabinet members, and that he had no other names to submit to be interviewed. The Orlando Sentinel quoted Scott’s spokeswoman as saying “Gov. Scott continues to believe that Jeffrey Bragg is the best candidate for the position and looks forward to further discussion on this by the Florida Cabinet.”

CFO Atwater held interviews with five additional candidates this week and announced April 21 he would like the Cabinet to interview Miller and Blacklidge, in addition to re-interviewing Hager.

McCarty told Insurance Journal the best choice for his successor is someone who will consider the many different backgrounds and experiences of those he or she will work with and serve. They also don’t necessarily have to be someone with experience in the Florida insurance market.

“I don’t think anyone should be discounted, either in the state or outside of state. I think what’s important is to have somebody who can strike the balance between protecting consumer issues, and understand[ing] the importance of a robust and competitive market,” McCarty said. “Every decision you make can affect millions of people directly or indirectly.”

McCarty said in his April 20 letter that he was amending the effective day of his resignation to 45 days after his successor is appointed, which could be at the April 26 Cabinet meeting or at a later date.

“I take this action to honor my commitment to facilitate a smooth transition as the 2016 hurricane season approaches,” McCarty wrote. “I remain committed to continuity of leadership for the benefit of the Office of Insurance Regulation and the people of Florida whom I serve.”

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About Amy O'Connor

O'Connor is the Southeast editor for Insurance Journal and associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com. More from Amy O'Connor

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