CFO Atwater proposes two more candidates for insurance post
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater offered up two new possible compromise candidates Thursday to be the state's next insurance commissioner: Raymond Blacklidge and Belinda Miller.
Atwater also renominated state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, for the insurance post, which means all three will attend next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, during which Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will evaluate the performance over the past year of Kevin McCarty, who has resigned.
Atwater's decision to pitch two more candidates will be seen as an acknowledgment that he can't persuade Scott to support Hager for the post. The start of Florida's always-treacherous hurricane season is about six weeks away.
Blacklidge, 55, a resident of Madeira Beach in Pinellas County, describes himself as an insurance executive, business entrepreneur and consumer advocate, and he's a lawyer. He is executive vice president, general counsel and board member of two insurance companies, American Traditions and Modern USA, and said he has 30-plus years of experience representing the property and casualty industry.
Miller, 55, of Crawfordville, is a lawyer who has been McCarty's chief of staff since 2003, supervising a staff of early 300 people. Her resume says she has "developed a deep understanding of the Florida insurance code, model laws and general corporate governance issues."
Atwater told reporters Wednesday that he had previously interviewed Miller, but he did not initially recommend her as a finalist for the post. Miller is McCarty's favorite to be his successor.
By law, Atwater and Scott must agree on a successor to McCarty, who has extended his resignation date from May 2 to 45 days after his replacement is appointed.
Scott remains committed to Jeffrey Bragg of Palm Harbor, calling him "the best candidate" to succeed McCarty. Bragg, 67, is a former federal official who ran a terrorism risk insurance program in the Department of the Treasury. However, Bragg's chances of being hired appear slim because Atwater has expressed no enthusiasm for Bragg, saying Hager has a better "skill set" to handle the position.
Blacklidge, Hager and Bragg are all registered Republicans, as are Scott and Atwater. Miller is a registered Democrat.