Industry Veteran to Take No. 2 Spot at La. Insurance Department

April 25, 2007

The chief executive officer of the Slidell, La., Chamber of Commerce – a Baton Rouge native who spent more than 30 years in insurance – will take the No. 2 job in the state insurance department beginning in May.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has hired J. William Newton to start May 1 at $144,000 a year, agency spokeswoman Amy Whittington said.

The department has been without a chief deputy since Donelon moved up from it on Feb. 15, 2006. He succeeded Robert Wooley, who resigned as insurance commissioner to take a lobbying job in the private sector.

Donelon said that Newton’s salary is in line with other top-level managers in other state departments. As a statewide elected official, Donelon’s salary is set by law at $85,000, $10,000 less than the governor’s pay.

Donelon was elected to the job in a special election last September and faces re-election for a full four-year term in the Oct. 20 primary.

Donelon said that Newton was one of four finalists for the job of chief executive officer of the state-run Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Donelon hired J. John Wortman of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a consultant and former chief executive officer with three insurance companies, for the Citizens job. The search committee split evenly on recommending Wortman and Newton to run Citizens, so Donelon turned to Newton for the deputy slot.

Newton, 58, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette), and a master’s of business administration from Pepperdine University in Malibu Beach, Calif.

He was appointed to the Slidell chamber job in January 2006 after volunteering to assist in community recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

Before that, Newton served as chief executive officer of NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co., a medical malpractice liability insurance company based in San Francisco. From 1990 to 1993, he was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Virginia Professional Underwriters Inc., a subsidiary of the Virginia Insurance Reciprocal in Glen Allen, Va. In that job, he oversaw the underwriting offices in 12 states.

He started his insurance career in sales and underwriting positions in New Orleans, was a vice president and branch manager with Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., and vice president and regional manager at different times with both the Transamerica Insurance Group and the Continental Insurance Co.

Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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