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State financial chief switches jobs to run Citizens Property Insurance

TALLAHASSEE — Tom Grady will step down from his position as head of Florida's Office of Financial Regulation next week to take on what might be the state's largest financial liability: Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Grady was named interim president of Citizens this week, and, in a letter to his staff at OFR, he said he may end up filling the position permanently.

Grady was asked this week by Carlos Lacasa, the Citizens board chairman, to head up the state-run insurer after the departure of president Scott Wallace. He made a spur-of-the-moment decision to accept the position.

"I love working at the OFR," wrote Grady, who worked as a securities attorney in Naples before taking the reins at the financial regulations agency last year. "But I am eager to serve in a different capacity in another area of the financial services industry, one where stability and rationality are necessary conditions to a sustained economic recovery."

Grady, 53, is a friend of Gov. Rick Scott and has served as a prominent fundraiser for the Republican Party.

He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2008 and backed a few controversial bills during his single term. He was behind a measure to allow banks to foreclose on homes without going to court, a move that homeowner activists have decried. That bill died before becoming law.

With 1.5 million policies and more than $500 billion in maximum exposure, Citizens has launched a bold and controversial risk-reduction effort of its own.

The insurer has raised premiums on sinkhole coverage, required roof inspections for old homes and launched a statewide reinspection program for homes receiving wind-mitigation discounts.

In January, the company scrapped wind coverage for homes worth more than $1 million. Disgruntled policyholders have complained, filed lawsuits, and even produced protest songs against the so-called insurer of last resort.

Grady said he "applaud(s) the board's courage and initiatives," and indicated he planned to continue with Citizens' plan to slash risk.

"Mr. Grady has graciously agreed to step in on short notice and lead the administration on an interim basis while we implement initiatives aimed at reducing the size and exposure of Citizens," Lacasa said in a statement.

Grady will have to adjust quickly. Hurricane season begins in fewer than 90 days, and Florida's six-year storm-free streak has many anxious that the odds of a direct hit are on the rise.

The OFR will soon name an interim director, an agency spokeswoman said. Grady, who pushed to crack down on fraud at banks and financial services companies during six months at the OFR, is the latest in a string of Florida agency heads to leave their posts this year.

Grady's colorful goodbye letter to his OFR staff may offer some insight into how he plans to run the behemoth Citizens.

"Question everything," he wrote. "Make decisions. Think different. Be heard. But most of all, suck the marrow out of life, inside and outside the office, and make your one shot on earth count."

State financial chief switches jobs to run Citizens Property Insurance 03/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 9:31pm]
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