Veteran Insurance Commissioner Stepping Down

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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Kevin McCarty, the state’s longtime insurance commissioner, said Tuesday he is leaving the job to explore “other career opportunities.”

McCarty guided the insurance industry through the unprecedented 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons and a global recession. But a year ago, he was one of three agency heads targeted for removal by Gov. Rick Scott.

McCarty, who would only say in a prepared statement that he is “looking forward to exploring new opportunities,” will stay in the job until May 2 “to facilitate a smooth transition.” Scott will name a potential replacement and, if he gets agreement from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, then will take the nomination to the state Cabinet for approval.

“The privilege of serving the people of Florida as insurance commissioner has been the highlight of my professional career,” McCarty said.

In his resignation letter Tuesday to Atwater, McCarty said the move will “allow me to pursue other career opportunities of interest that have recently come to my attention.”

In October, McCarty said he wasn’t going anywhere, but he’d listen if the offer was right.

Industry insiders have said they wouldn’t be surprised to see McCarty lead the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program or replace Ben Nelson, who has announced he is stepping down as chief executive officer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“(McCarty’s) opportunities are endless,” said Lisa Miller, who has spent nearly three decades as an insurance regulator and lobbyist. “He’s a rare breed. He’s funny. He’s brilliant. He asks tough questions. He’s no shrinking violet.”

But Miller acknowledged that Scott’s effort to remove McCarty from office played a role in the decision.

“I think the events of this past year have given him the realization that his work is done here,” Miller said. “He can move on and leave Florida with his head held high.”

McCarty has been with the state for more than a quarter century and has served as the appointed insurance commissioner since 2003. He is paid $134,157 a year to regulate an industry that is often in the state headlines.

Scott’s office didn’t address possible replacements when asked Tuesday.

“We appreciate his service to the state, and we wish him the best of luck in his next endeavor,” Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement.

Atwater praised McCarty for helping to usher in reforms across multiple facets of the industry, including workers’ compensation insurance, medical malpractice insurance, health insurance and auto insurance.

“He helped navigate consumers and the industry through the hardships and tumultuous effects of natural disaster, and his peers recognized his service and commitment by asking him to serve on a national level as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners,” Atwater said in a statement.

The decision by McCarty comes a week after Florida Department of Revenue Executive Director Marshall Stranburg announced he will leave for a job in Washington. Stranburg’s resignation is effective April 1.

A year ago, Scott called for the Cabinet to begin the process of possibly removing McCarty, Stranburg and Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear. That came after Cabinet members questioned the governor over the abrupt departure in December 2014 of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Breakspear remains in office, and his spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi said in an email Tuesday that “he does not have any plans to resign.”

People who have worked closely on insurance issues said McCarty has left the insurance market strong.

“Indeed, while we may have been critical of some of his regulatory decisions over the years, he has effectively overseen the state’s complex and politically charged insurance system with fairness and restraint,” R Street Institute Florida Director Christian Camara said in a release. “Undoubtedly, he deserves credit for restoring sanity and stability to Florida’s shaky insurance marketplace.”

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former state lawmaker who worked on insurance issues, said in a release that Floridians are “losing one of their greatest advocates.”

“Commissioner McCarty not only stood up for the consumer, he had an incredible grasp of the complexity of insurance in all its forms,” Fasano said. “He understood the grave impact a single word change in statute could have for or against the consumer. His voice of warning or support could change the tide for a piece of legislation. He truly was an individual who, even though powerful, behaved at all times like a gentleman. He is a class act whose shoes will surely be hard to fill.”

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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