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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott settles on top contender for Florida insurance commissioner



Gov. Rick Scott appears to have found his choice to be the next state insurance commissioner.

Scott's office on Wednesday morning recommended the Florida Cabinet conduct a final public interview with just one of 55 candidates who applied to be the next insurance commissioner. Scott's office proposed that Cabinet interview only Palm Harbor resident Jeffrey Bragg, a former top insurance official in both the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administration. That interview would be next Tuesday when the four-member cabinet is scheduled to meet.

Bragg, a 67-year-old Republican, ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until his retirement in 2014. In the early 1980s, Bragg worked under the Reagan Administration, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program.

But Bragg isn't a done deal yet. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has recommended the Cabinet also interview current state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, who served as Iowa's Insurance Commissioner from 1986 to 1990. Hager, 69, has been vice-chair of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. Since 2000, Hager has been president of Insurance Metrics Corporation, which provides insurance consulting services. 

Florida elected chief financial officer Jeff Atwater is expected to propose a list of candidates for the final interview later today or early on Thursday. Atwater is in the process of finishing private interviews with 11 candidates over the last two days, said Robert Tornillo, director of cabinet affairs for Atwater. Hager and Bragg were among 7 candidates scheduled to be interview in private today by Atwater. On Tuesday, Atwater interviewed four current employees with the Office of Insurance Regulation. 

Tornillo said Atwater may still have more candidates he wants to interview.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has not proposed any additional candidates be interviewed for the post other than Bragg and Hager. Scott and Atwater have extra weight in selecting the next insurance commissioner. According to state statute, both have to be in agreement on who is appointed. The insurance commissioner is part of the CFO's office, but answers to the full Cabinet.

For the first time in 13 years, the state is looking for a new state insurance regulator because current commissioner Kevin McCarty announced earlier this year he was resigning from the position effective May 2.

Scott settled on Bragg after personally interviewing just three of the 55 candidates who applied to replace McCarty. On Monday, Scott interviewed Bragg and David Altmaier, a current deputy commissioner under McCarty who Atwater interviewed on Tuesday. On Tuesday Scott interviewed Hager.

Though the Cabinet had scheduled to make a final appointment at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Tornillo suggested that could be delayed if Atwater or any of the other Cabinet members need more time to make a final decision. 

"I know the CFO feels strongly about making sure he looks at the entire pool of applicants," Tornillo said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:35pm]


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