Asa Hutchinson has announced that former state Rep. Allen Kerr of Little Rock will be the insurance commissioner in his administration, succeeding Jay Bradford, and that Sheila Sharp will remain as director of the Department of Community Correction.
Kerr is an insurance agency owner as Bradford was.
The Insurance Commission was a vital player in the events that led to Arkansas’s adoption of the private option Medicaid expansion under Obamcare. Kerr voted for the measure in 2013 and against it in 2014.
The governor-elect’s statement:
“I am pleased to announce Representative Allen Kerr as my new Insurance Commissioner. Along with his experience in the legislature and his breadth of knowledge in the insurance industry, Allen will also bring with him a fresh look at the department.”
Rep. Kerr has served 6 years in the Arkansas House of Representatives. He has 34 years of insurance experience with a background in financial services, where he holds several professional licenses.
“Sheila has done an outstanding job in her current role as director at the Department of Community Correction. As a former prosecutor, I recognize how critical this role is to our law enforcement community, and I have no doubt she will continue to serve the department and the people of Arkansas well.”
Sharp has worked in state government for close to 40 years and has more than 15 years of experience with the state prison system. She has served as director for the Department of Community Correction since August of 2013.
Speaking of Hutchinson transition: An interesting rumor began making the rounds this morning. It was that Little Rock City Director Stacy Hurst, who lost a hard-fought race for a state House seat, is a candidate to succeed Martha Miller as director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. No response to my query to the Hutchinson team as yet. Hurst’s name isn’t the only one being mentioned. Susan Dumas, a former Senate staffer who currently works for the state land commissioner, has also been mentioned.
ALSO: Jay Bradford sent a message to Insurance Department staff today that remarks on the work on the private option:
It has been my distinct pleasure to work with each and every one of you for the past six years as we endeavored to make sure Arkansas insurance consumers were treated in a fair manner. You may have heard by now, but I thought it was important to reach out to each of you directly and let you know that I will not be serving as your commissioner during Governor Hutchinson’s new administration.
As I have said to you and others, when I came to the Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) in 2009, I said this agency wasn’t broken and did not need fixing. It has always been consumer-focused and I would like to think my efforts have made it even more so.
I am proud of the support given to the Private Option and for the establishment of the State Partnership Marketplace at the AID. We now have more than 240,000 insured through the Marketplace, and most of them are young working families. It is in the best interest of Arkansas to continue this protection. The regulator culture in our state has allowed us to bring more competition into the health insurance market. We have also seen those conducting business in our state expand their coverage to every region, rates for Marketplace plans are projected to drop by an average of 2 percent.
I have been privileged to have been a small part of serving in the cabinet of one of the most respected and successful governors in recent Arkansas history, Mike Beebe. And lucky for me, I have had the nearly fifty years of knowledge Chief Deputy Commissioner Lenita Blasingame brings when she takes on the task of mentoring a new commissioner. I was her thirteenth, and I could not have been successful without her. I am thrilled she has agreed to continue her service to the Department and the next commissioner.
I view these past six years as the finale to an extended career in public service. Serving in the Arkansas legislature for twenty-four years and then spending two years as Director of the Division of Behavioral Health Services, coming to the Department as your commissioner was meaningful and I owe Governor Beebe for this opportunity in this chapter of my public life. I have also enjoyed great accomplishments in my professional life as well, serving as founder and Chairman of the Board of First Arkansas Insurance Group from 1976 through 2006.
I have had the pleasure to work with some of the finest and most dedicated public servants. I leave knowing you will continue to serve Arkansas consumers by supporting Governor-elect Hutchinson and his choice for commissioner, Representative Allen Kerr. We will work to ensure a smooth transition.