After the Florida Cabinet again deadlocked over who to make the new insurance commissioner, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he is just not certain that the man Gov. Rick Scott is committed to for the job has the right background for the post.
Moments after Scott and Atwater, both Republicans, declared another impasse in picking a commissioner, Atwater told reporters that he doesn't know if Pinellas County resident Jeffrey Bragg has the required private sector experience or regulatory experience to even legally hold the position of Florida Insurance Commissioner.
"I don't know the answer to that," Atwater told reporters.
Bragg, a 67-year-old Republican who lives in Palm Harbor, ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until his retirement in 2014. In the early 1980s, he worked under the Reagan Administration, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program.
Between those appointments, Bragg worked in the private sector, including as a senior vice president for Zurich Risk Management from 2001 to 2003 and as executive vice president for IMSG in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2000.
During a public interview with Bragg on Tuesday during the cabinet meeting, Atwater said he tried to probe him about his regulatory background to get answers as to whether Bragg really is qualified to regulate Florida's insurance market.
"He wasn't regulating players offering products in the private sector market place or who the complied with his programs," Atwater said.
He said other candidates in the running had "clear regulatory relevance to what the role would be" that they would be inheriting if appointed.
"Other candidates I'm seeing have more relevant and more competency in the role they are going to be stepping into," Atwater said.
Atwater made clear he is not saying Bragg does not have the skill set for the job, just that there were 2 other candidates in the room on Tuesday that he would have felt more comfortable with.
Atwater highlighted State Rep. Bill Hager and Belinda Miller, the current chief of staff for current insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty as the two he favored. Those two, Bragg and Raymond Blacklidge, a Pinellas Park man who is an executive vice president and general counsel for the American Traditions Insurance Company, all were interviewed in public for the position on Tuesday.
During Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Scott proposed only Bragg for the position. After no one seconded his proposal, Scott declared an impasse. Last month, Atwater recommended the Cabinet appoint Hager to the position, but Scott said he would not agree to that and declared a stalemate then.