Arkansas Gov. Michael Beebe has picked Jay Bradford, a former insurance executive and state lawmaker, to succeed Julie Benafield Bowman as the state’s insurance commissioner.

Bradford has served for the past 2 years as Division of Behavioral Sciences director in the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Beebe, who took office in January 2007, is a Democrat.

Bowman, who was appointed by former Gov. Michael Huckabee, R, resigned last week. She was chief executive officer of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission before becoming insurance commissioner.

Chief Deputy Commissioner Lenita Blasingame is serving as interim commissioner. She will return to her original post once Bradford is sworn in, officials say.

Bradford, a Pine Bluff, Ark., resident, founded First Arkansas Insurance/Pine Bluff Inc., Pine Bluff, an insurance agency, in 1976. He served as chairman of the agency for 30 years. The agency sells life and health insurance products as well as personal and commercial property-casualty lines.

Bradford holds the Certified Insurance Counselor professional designation. He received the Allan Kennedy Memorial Award from the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas, Little Rock, Ark., in 1987.

Bradford also spent more than 20 years in the Arkansas Legislature, serving as both House speaker and as Senate president.

Bradford’s appointment as commissioner will expire Jan. 14, 2013.

The American Insurance Association, Washington, an insurance trade group released a statement saying Bradford’s “private-sector experience, coupled with his extensive legislative leadership on insurance issues, will prove beneficial to consumers and insurers alike.”