David Altmaier, 34, who has been with the Office of Insurance Regulation since 2008, was named to the $165,000-a-year job following another awkward clash between Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
As part of the deal, Altmaier’s outgoing boss, Kevin McCarty, will stay on board for an additional 60 days. McCarty had resigned, effective May 2, but already said he would help with the transition in advance of the start of hurricane season a month away.
“This guy is impressive,” Atwater said of Altmaier. “He is going to perform very well.”
Still, Altmaier’s selection emerged only after another deadlock ensued between Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Scott, who more than a year ago began pushing for McCarty’s ouster from the post he held since 2003.
The leaders sifted through dozens of applicants for the job, only to turn to an in-house entry.
The Office of Insurance Regulation licenses companies, regulates rates and attempts to maintain a stable market for the industry and customers.
At Friday’s meeting, Atwater, a North Palm Beach resident, again first recommended Delray Beach Republican Rep. Bill Hager, a former Iowa insurance commissioner and longtime ally.
But, as in two earlier sessions that ended without choosing a commissioner, Hager proved unacceptable to Scott.
Scott’s own favorite applicant, Tampa-area Jeffrey Bragg, a retired insurance industry executive, had already been rejected by Atwater. State law requires that the governor and chief financial officer, who oversees the insurance commissioner’s office, must agree on a selection.
After Hager failed, Atwater’s fallback candidate, Deputy Commissioner Belinda Miller, also didn’t win Scott’s OK. So Atwater turned to Altmaier, the last of three applicants interviewed Friday by the panel.
Atwater was the lone participant to show up in person. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi, citing scheduling conflicts, joined the meeting by conference call.
Altmaier, though, evidently made an impression with his grasp of the insurance market, his focus on consumers and his views on a ruling Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court that is seen as threatening the workers’ compensation system.
He is getting a $50,000 pay raise from his current $115,000 salary as a deputy commissioner. Altmaier began as an examiner in the office in 2008 and worked his way up in the agency through various analyst and director roles.
Altmaier graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2004 with a degree in mathematics.
Still, the new commissioner was teaching high school math during Florida’s last catastrophic hurricane season, 2005, when three hurricanes crossed the state, including Katrina on course to New Orleans and Wilma, which blacked-out South Florida and caused almost $21 billion in damage.
Atwater said keeping McCarty around for a while will help. But Altmaier will be in charge.
“I think David Altmaier is going to be a very impressive and a very strong leader at OIR,” Atwater said. “I think he showed and displayed that today in front of everybody.
“But you haven’t been through that. … If something were to come early, he has another set of eyes and ears he can turn to for guidance,” Atwater said.
Industry groups praised the selection.
“Altmaier brings a balanced perspective, and his appointment grants continuity within the Office of Insurance Regulation, which will be extremely valuable,” the Florida Association for Insurance Reform said in a statement.
Atwater also defended the wide-ranging search, which ultimately ended right back in the Office of Insurance Regulation.
“Doesn’t that often happen?” Atwater said. “You look at sports and picking a head coach and companies that look all across the world.
“We had to do that,” he added. “We owed it to the people of Florida and to the department to do that, and right here there is” the best candidate.
Source: Palm Beach Post