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Wilson named president of insurance firm that started as Missouri public option

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 20, 2010 -Former Missouri Gov. Roger B. Wilson has become the permanent president and chief executive of Missouri Employers Mutual, the state’s largest provider of workers compensation insurance.

Wilson had been the acting president since last June. The mutual's board of directors announced Wednesday that it had acted Friday to make Wilson their permanent choice.

The mutual provides workers' compensation insurance for about 15,000 companies. What makes Wilson's choice particularly interesting is that, as the Beacon reported last summer, the mutual represents the state of Missouri's brief entry into the "public option'' health insurance field about 16 years ago.

The Missouri Legislature set up the mutual in 1993 with a $5 million loan in a public effort to lower compensation rates for small businesses in the state, who at the time were complaining of being confronted with huge premiums from private insurers.

The mutual's creation, said Wilson in an interview last summer, prompted workers compensation insurance rates in the state to drop 25 percent. And the mutual has paid back its $5 million loan to the state.

In a statement Wednesday, mutual board chairman Jim Jura called Wilson "a perfect match'' for the firm, and added in a statement that during Wilson's stint as acting president, "he has distinguished himself through his leadership and the multiple strategic initiatives he has implemented..."

Those initiatives, said Jura, included:

--"Across-the-board expense reductions.

--"Significant rate reductions for Missouri employers, especially small businesses.

--"Far-reaching technology projects..."
 
A Democrat, Wilson served as Missouri's lieutenant governor from 1993-2000. He held the top post for about three months, when he was elevated following the Oct. 16, 2000 plane crash that killed then-Gov. Mel Carnahan. Wilson served until fellow Democrat Bob Holden was inaugurated in January 2001. Wilson earlier had spent 14 years in the state Senate, from 1979-93. 

In recent years, Wilson worked for the Brentwood-based financial management firm Rockwood Capital Advisors.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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