67 apply to become state’s next Insurance Commissioner

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet now have 67 names to pick from for state Insurance Commissioner.

They decided to take more applications for the job after the March 29 Cabinet meeting, setting an April 15 application deadline.

Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater had each favored two different candidates: Retired executive Jeffrey Bragg and state Rep. Bill Hager, a former Iowa insurance commissioner, respectively.

Scott and Atwater first have to agree on the same candidate under state law. The Office of Insurance Regulation is under the Department of Financial Services, which Atwater heads as CFO.

Bragg and Hager were the finalists out of an original 55 who applied.

Among others, the new applicants now include:

  • Michael Bownes, a veteran General Counsel for the Alabama Insurance Department. He’s also past head of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection.
  • Michael Conover, a vice president at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.
  • Joshua Williams, the corporate risk director for Crescent Hotels & Resorts.
  • Richards Barger Jr., an insurance consultant in Pasadena, California.
  • Said Abadi, a French citizen with extensive knowledge of the French insurance industry. He’s looking to relocate to America.

Bragg made a high-profile misstep when Attorney General Pam Bondi asked him an Affordable Care Act question about navigators. They’re application counselors who are supposed to help people get health insurance. Bragg said he didn’t know what Bondi was talking about.

Bragg has had senior positions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and mega-insurer Zurich. He also was director of the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program.

Hager is a current Florida state representative who was Iowa’s insurance commissioner. He also runs a small business as an expert witness and insurance arbitrator. The Delray Beach Republican is vice chairman of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

“I believe I would be ready from Day 1,” he told the governor and Cabinet. “I have experience leading … I’m unafraid to lead and to take the heat.”

The next Cabinet meeting is April 26.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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.