Florida’s chief financial officer: A Times Editorial Board recommendation
The incumbent faces a former state lawmaker.
Democratic Chief Financial Officer nominee Adam Hattersley speaks in support of Allison Miller at the Grand Central Brewhouse in St. Petersburg last month.
Democratic Chief Financial Officer nominee Adam Hattersley speaks in support of Allison Miller at the Grand Central Brewhouse in St. Petersburg last month. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 23, 2022

Florida’s chief financial officer pays the state’s bills, oversees vendors and contracts, and audits government agencies. The CFO’s office handles the state’s retirement fund and both the state’s financial regulation and insurance commissioners. The CFO is part of the Florida Cabinet, which is chaired by the governor and also includes the attorney general and agriculture commissioner. The CFO is paid $139,988 a year. The election is Nov. 8.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other races.

Chief Financial Officer - Adam Hattersley, Democrat

Adam Hattersley
Adam Hattersley [ Courtesy Adam Hattersley campaign ]

The state chief financial officer job is not particularly sexy, but it is important. It deserves a leader who will think for themselves and take an aggressive role in addressing the insurance crisis. That person is Democrat Adam Hattersley.

Hattersley, 44, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aerospace from the University of Michigan and spent eight years as a nuclear submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He earned a Bronze Star while serving in Iraq and taught electrical engineering at the Naval Academy. He moved to Riverview in 2009, and went to work managing data and financial analytics for a General Electric subsidiary before starting his own small business, C-Suite Productions, a promotional company that did not survive the pandemic. He was registered as an independent for years, but moved to the Democratic Party before winning a state House seat in 2018. He lost a run for Congress in 2020.

Hattersley is a moderate Democrat who said he jumped into the CFO race because of skyrocketing property insurance rates. He didn’t think incumbent CFO Jimmy Patronis was doing nearly enough to get the costs under control for homeowners and small business operators.

“Don’t vote with your heart. Don’t vote with your party. It’s time to vote with your wallet,” Hattersley told the Times Editorial Board. “Florida is in a major property insurance crisis, and the current CFO has done absolutely nothing to help fix it. We need to keep politics out of people’s money.”

Hattersley would overhaul the leadership at the Office of Insurance Regulation, push to require that insurance companies keep capital reserves in Florida instead of siphoning them into out-of-state parent companies, and advocate for better flood controls and other infrastructure improvements to reduce risk levels — and help control insurance costs. He would also like to take a deep dive into why so many insurance companies have failed, something he says Patronis has been too slow to do.

Anytime an insurance company fails, Florida law requires a department that is part of the CFO’s responsibilities to write a report. In May, a Times analysis found that the department often doesn’t release those financial autopsies until years after the company went under. The Times asked for reports on five of the insurers that had failed since 2014. The department had finished only one. That’s pathetic, and an indication of how little effort Patronis has made to solve the property insurance crisis.

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Patronis was also slow to implement a program the Legislature passed in May that grants up to $10,000 to homeowners to make storm safety related improvements. Last week, Patronis finally said the program should be expedited, but homeowners still cannot sign up.

Patronis, 50, is a former Republican House member from Panama City with deep Panhandle roots. Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed Patronis to the CFO job in 2017 when Jeff Atwater resigned to take another job. Patronis won the election in 2018. In his first full term he has faced several scandals, including two state banking regulators accusing him of unethical behavior.

On the plus side, Patronis led efforts to increase benefits for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer. He was quick to send anti-fraud teams to the parts of southwest Florida hit by Hurricane Ian, and he investigated after a Miami Herald report found that the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association often denied care to children, despite having $1.5 billion in assets. The state has also received triple A ratings from rating agencies over the last three years.

But Patronis has been far too slow to react to the insurance crisis. He has also too often engaged in culture war issues that have nothing to do with his office. The state needs more competence, including in its Cabinet positions. Hattersley would advance that goal.

For Florida Chief Financial Officer, the Times recommends Adam Hattersley.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.