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Retiring Citizens CEO hopeful 'dream team' will see state-backed insurer through ongoing crisis

'I think Citizens is just in excellent shape to move forward,' Barry Gilway says
Posted at 6:02 PM, Dec 22, 2022

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Another of Florida's top insurance officials is out.

Citizens Property Insurance CEO Barry Gilway said Thursday he was retiring, having served as the state-backed carrier's chief for more than 10 years.

His announcement follows the departure of several other high-ranking regulators and comes as the state's insurance market continues to totter.

The 77-year-old's departure is expected sometime before next March.

Gilway said during avirtual meeting of the Citizens board he had faith in the "huge success" of this month's property insurance reforms and his "dream team" of employees carrying on without him.

"I leave in place the most experienced, dedicated leadership team and the most committed employees that I have ever had the privilege of working with — and that is saying a lot," Gilway said. "With this dream team in place, I think Citizens is just in excellent shape to move forward."

Gilway's retirement comes just as Citizens undergoes an overhaul to shed many of its 1.1 million policyholders. Lawmakers want to return the company to a carrier of last resort — reducing taxpayer liability during the next major storm.

Specifically, Citizens will require things like flood insurance and customers will need to move to a private plan if they can find one up to 20% higher than their current premium.

"For most people, they want to grow their business," former state Sen. Jeff Brandes said. "We're going to have to hire somebody, and we're going to ask them to shrink their business."

During his tenure, Brandes was one of the loudest sirens on the vulnerability of Florida's property insurance market. He said it'll be a "challenging environment" to find a replacement for Gilway — and the job lacks perks.

"It's a very difficult job that doesn't offer stock options or anything else like that, that we would typically incentivize a CEO to come in for," Brandes said. "So, what you have is a behemoth of an organization that is going through an incredible amount of turmoil."

Gilway's post isn't the only position that needs filling.

Last week, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said he was leaving effective Dec. 28. Deputy Commissioner Susanne Murphy also departed earlier in the month.

The governor addressed the growing vacancies last week, suggesting some were due to the new six-year lobbying ban for agency heads and other chief regulators. It begins in January.

"This kind of end of the year— it's kind of a deadline for people in these positions because there are different things that are changing with the law and what you can do in the future," Gov. Ron DeSantis said while speaking in Fort Myers Beach. "We knew that would potentially be a pressure point."

The details of Gilway's departure are still being worked out. Citizens officials said General Counsel Tim Cerio will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement for Gilway is found.