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Insurance Commissioner Visits Vidalia

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Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John King visited Vidalia on February 23 to meet with leaders and insurance agents in the area about their concerns. “I had to get out of Atlanta to see what truly needed addressing throughout all of Georgia, not just that one area,” King told attendees. “There is more to Georgia than just Atlanta.” King has served as the Commissioner for two and a half years since being sworn into office on July 1, 2019, and is noted as the first Hispanic statewide official in Georgia history. His parents married in Savannah but soon moved to Mexico. He returned to America when he was 17, and became a graduate of Albany High School. He formerly served as a police officer, during which his nightly duty was to walk Coretta Scott King to her car. He also served as a member of a drug task force. After seven years with the police force, King enlisted in the Georgia National Guard, which he entered as a private. He is currently in his 40th year as a major general in the United States Army. He also returned to the law enforcement field and worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a federal task force member before spending 14 years as the chief of police in Atlanta. “It is about falling in love with the opportunity to give your time and have the chance to serve,” King explained when discussing how these jobs prepared him for his role as Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner. “I got a text one day that said it was from Brian and he wanted me to come meet with him. I had no idea who Brian was at the time, but it ended up being Governor Brian Kemp.”

He added, “He asked me to serve as an insurance commissioner, and immediately I told him I was a cop and a soldier. I knew nothing about insurance besides paying my policy.”

But it was that very lack of experience that drew Governor Kemp to John King. “He told me that the state had a lot of experts in the field that had been insurance commissioners and it had not worked out. He wanted to try something new,” King remarked.

King elaborated on the two law enforcement agencies with which he is currently working to reform in the field, the arson investigation unit and the insurance fraud investigation unit. “We had officers who could not testify under oath because of past problems with integrity,” he said. “That is unacceptable. So I have been working to remedy that issue and bring in new professionals. I hired a former Cobb County Police Chief, who has truly rebuilt the agency and made it wonderful.”

King emphasized his desire to spread talent throughout the state, rather than just in Atlanta. “We want to focus across the state,” he noted.

During the interactive session, local insurance agents questioned King on how to handle situations, such as the high cost of insurance, and voiced their concerns about the future of the business.

City Managers of Vidalia and Lyons Nick Overstreet and Jason Hall spoke with King, addressing their concerns about bettering the Fire Department Insurance Services Office rating for the cities. “Fighting fire in rural areas is not the same as fighting fire in bigger cities,” Hall told King. “In fact, even our two cities, Lyons and Vidalia, as close as they are do not fight fire the same way.”

Overstreet added to Hall’s statement, “There has to be a way that this difference in method can be recognized.”

King listened to all the concerns and reassured the attendees that he would keep these topics in mind when working in Atlanta. “Do not think I am forgetting about you,” he told them. “I hear what you are saying, and I see the issues. I will do my best to aid in whatever way I can throughout the future.”

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