COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday named her choice to lead the Department of Insurance, nearly a year after the agency’s last director resigned abruptly.
Haley selected Raymond Farmer to head up the Cabinet agency. He takes over Dec. 3 after retiring as Southeast vice president at the American Insurance Association, a trade group that represents about 300 property and casualty insurers.
Farmer, 66, of Atlanta, still must be confirmed by the Senate. Haley praised Farmer as bringing a pro-business attitude and wide knowledge of the industry.
“Insurance companies serve consumers best when government is least,” Farmer said. “We will run the Department of Insurance in a business fashion as we protect our citizens and grow the business of insurance.”
The insurance industry employs 38,000 people in South Carolina currently.
The agency has had an interim leader since former director David Black quit last December without explanation. Haley named Gwen Fuller-McGriff acting director the next day.
Haley said it took so long to fill the role because she wanted to hire someone from the private sector, but found it difficult to attract the right candidate who was willing to take a government salary.
“We’ve had a lot of previous legislators who wanted the job. We had a lot of bureaucrats who wanted the job. But we wanted a business person,” she said. “It is very hard to get people who want to move from the private sector to government.”
While no one turned down an official offer, she said, half a dozen people whom the governor’s office wanted to consider said “no way” when they were told the pay scale.
Fuller-McGriff’s salary is $121,439. That’s $9,000 more than Black’s.
Farmer was a deputy insurance commission in the Georgia Insurance Department from 1971 to 1979, when he joined the American Insurance Association. He also served for more than 30 years on the board of the Georgia Arson Control Program.