Kevin McCarty, who helped guide Florida's fragile insurance market in the wake of eight hurricanes a decade ago, announced Tuesday that he is resigning as the state's insurance commissioner, the Associated Press reported.
He took office in 2003, and has dealt with the near collapse of the state's Homeowners' insurance market, major changes in health insurance and contentious legislative battles over Auto insurance, medical malpractice and the state-created Citizens Property Insurance.
McCarty, the first person appointed to the job after it stopped being an elected position, was placed in the post in 2003 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and other elected members of the Cabinet. He held onto his position despite numerous calls from legislators — and even Gov. Rick Scott last year— that he should resign, the AP said.
McCarty, who earns more than $134,000 a year, was able to hang onto his job because both the governor and the state's elected chief financial officer to agree on whether to fire the commissioner.
He said he wasn't being pressured to resign, but is stepping down on May 2 to pursue other jobs. He did not say what that job may be, but his lengthy time as a state regulator could help him to move to positions at the national level.
He is considered a leading candidate to be the next chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, where he once served as president, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
When appointed, McCarty became one of the only openly gay people in a top state position. His sexual orientation only became known because a Florida insurance company opened an investigation into his private life, hoping it would cause then-Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson to fire him. A private investigator followed McCarty and illegally tapped his phone. McCarty sued the St. Petersburg-based Bankers Insurance Co., which in 2000 agreed to pay him a $2.55 million settlement, the Associated Press said.
McCarty's biggest challenges as commissioner came after the state's insurance market shriveled after eight hurricanes pounded the state in 2004 and 2005. Some insurers left the state and rates started soaring, leading then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature to approve a dramatic expansion of a state-backed reinsurance fund in order to lower costs for private insurers. They also agreed then to freeze rates for Citizens Property Insurance and help it compete for business.
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