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New Chief Takes Reins In Palmetto State

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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford appointed state Sen. Scott Richardson, R-Beaufort, as acting director of the Department of Insurance Wednesday, replacing Eleanor Kitzman, who resigned abruptly.

Sanford, a Republican, issued a statement emphasizing Richardson’s experience.

“While Eleanor has certainly done a lot of good things at the Department of Insurance–particularly with regard to the captives industry–when you look at the situation that has developed for all of U.S. coastal insurance as a result of Hurricane Katrina, we thought Scott would bring a skill-set to the position key to addressing that situation,” Sanford says in the statement.

South Carolina is facing some “real challenges with regard to coastal insurance right now, largely due to Hurricane Katrina and the effect it’s had on the insurance market in every coastal state,” says Joel Sawyer, the governor’s press secretary.

Richardson’s focus as insurance director will be on “addressing the situation that exists with coastal insurance right now,” Sawyer says.

Richardson’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Kitzman will remain with the South Carolina temporarily, officials says.

Richardson was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 2000 and previously served in the South Carolina House from 1993 through 1996. He worked as an insurance sales associate for Carswell of Carolina Insurance Agency, Hilton Head, S.C.

He now works for Sea Pines Real Estate, Hilton Head Island, and lives on Hilton Head Island. In the Senate, he serves on the Finance Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee.

The resignation of Kitzman and the appointment of Richardson should not affect the state’s burgeoning captive department, according to the governor’s office.

Kitzman has done a good job on captives, and the Sanford administration expects the focus on that area to continue under Richardson, officials say.

The switch in regulators indicates “a potential lack of political stability,” according to Michael Mead, president of Meeting Street Management L.L.C., Charleston, S.C., which manages captives domiciled in South Carolina.

Still, he says, he does not see “any impact” on the state’s captive department.

Despite upheavals in the agency’s leadership, Mead says he believes the captive division is “stable.”

He says Jeff Kehler, program manager for alternative risk transfer services, “is doing a good job there.”

“They’ve spent some money, added staff, and I think they’ve made a lot of progress under Jeff,” Mead says. “So we’re not expecting any big changes in the captive arena.”

Kitzman was appointed in February 2005, replacing Ernst Csiszar, who was credited with developing the South Carolina captive industry.

Csiszar resigned abruptly to take a post with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Des Plaines, Ill.

Before her appointment, Kitzman founded Driver’s Choice Insurance Services, Columbia, S.C., a South Carolina automobile insurance organization, and held management positions with several insurers and reinsurers, officials say.

Kitzman reorganized the South Carolina Insurance Department, moving the alternative risk transfer services division to the financial services division and appointing Kehler to his post, replacing Leslie Jones. Jones assumed a new position as executive assistant and consulting actuary.