Mr. Smith, the Bipartisan, Goes to Burlington
By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
Bipartisanship, first-rate written and spoken communications skills, and experience handling regulatory and legislative issues figured heavily into the selection of Richard Smith, the next president of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association.
"Rich seems to be very good with everybody at the board, at the state, and on the regulatory and legislative side, and on the governor's office side," said Michael Bemi chairman of the search committee in charge of replacing long-time VCIA president Molly Lambert.
Smith, from Topsfield, Mass., was one of six finalists interviewed by the board, and his experience in and around Vermont state government is significant.
"Richard will bring a perfect blend of political savvy, ease in relating to CEOs regarding their complex enterprise management choices and years of significant administrative accomplishments to this very important role," said Bemi, in a statement released at the time of Smith's announcement on Sept. 9.
In 1991 Smith, a political science major, started working for the U.S. Senate after working on the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. After working on Capitol Hill for more than three years, he came to Vermont in 1994 where he worked in the office of former Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat.
Four years later, he was appointed to the position of deputy commissioner of economic development in the Vermont Department of Economic Development.
As deputy commissioner, he was responsible for finding new ways to keep existing businesses in the state, and helping to bring new business into a state with stringent environmental regulations and an economy prone to the business cycles dictated by tourism.
SMITH SPEAKS BIPARTISAN
The inauguration of Gov. James Douglas, a Republican, in 2003 and changes in the highest levels of the state's executive branch might have signaled the end of Smith's tenure in Montpelier, the state capital. Not so, as Smith's new bosses, Secretary of Commerce Kevin Dorn and former Commissioner of Economic Development Michael Quinn asked him to stay on.
Smith did, and in 2005 moved to the Vermont Department of Public Service, the chief regulatory agency for the state's energy and telecommunications sectors.
"I've worked in state government in Vermont for many years, having worked in the regulatory arena, and I understand the balance and the importance of industry, and the wants and needs to be regulated," said Smith, in a Sept. 10 interview with Risk & Insurance®.
His track record of working with Democrats and Republicans, in the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as his record of working with the business community, is what appealed most to the VCIA, said Bemi.
"He's the guy that's all about getting good things done and it's likely he's a Democrat, but I don't care and we don't know," Bemi also said.
Smith, who returned to his New England roots 15 years ago to start a family and profit from the great outdoors, declined to reveal his political affiliation.
Either way, he will be in charge of an organization that prides itself on its nonpartisan leanings and its ability to foster the growth of a pollution-free and highly profitable industry that has brought millions of dollars through premium taxes into the Vermont Treasury.
In 2008 alone, the state collected about $24.5 million from premium taxes on captive insurance companies domiciled in the state.
Smith said his goal for the coming year is to make sure industry boosters don't become complacent in attracting yet more captive insurance companies to the state. "I know that domiciles like Hawaii, Arizona, D.C., and South Carolina are all looking at Vermont," he said.
At the end of last year, Vermont reported 557 licensed captives in the state, Hawaii 165 and South Carolina 163.
Vermont licensed 18 new captives in the first half of 2009, putting it on pace to license more than 30 captives in 2009.
Despite the comfortable lead in the number of licensed domiciles, the VCIA intends to aggressively pursue new market opportunities, said Smith.
Smith succeeds Molly Lambert who is under consideration as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's next state director for rural development in Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire. Lambert, who has led the VCIA over the past seven years, has been credited with helping the VCIA grow.
Smith will serve as president as long as he wants and as long as the board wants him there; it is not a contract position, said Bemi.
"The term is as long as Rich does a great job for us, and as long as he likes doing so."
Smith reports to his new job as VCIA president Oct. 16.
September 11, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications