Assistant Insurance Commissioner Clark Shultz visited Garden City on Thursday to articulate his vision for the office of state insurance commissioner, a position he’s running for in the upcoming election.

Shultz’s visit involved an address regarding the Kansas Firefighter Relief Act at the Kansas State Firefighters Association meeting that began at the Clarion Inn on Wednesday and stretched into Friday, but he also set aside some time to visit The Telegram offices and make a case for his candidacy based on his experience as a licensed insurance agent and veteran state lawmaker.

Shultz will be facing off against Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, and after a failed run for the office in 2014 when sitting commissioner Ken Selzer took the win, he’s hoping the experience he’s accrued as assistant insurance commissioner gives him the edge as Selzer effectively vacates his position for a gubernatorial run.

By statute, Shultz said, the insurance commissioner should be someone well versed in the insurance industry with a wealth of experience. He said he has been practicing as a licensed insurance agent since 1999 and worked for 10 years as an auditor for a national title insurance underwriter.

Statute also dictates that the focus of the commissioner’s office should be on consumer advocacy, Shultz said, adding that the office took around 18,000 phone calls last year in person, fielding concerns on everything from hail damage to insurance coverage for crucial medications.

According to Shultz, the office also has been responsible for licensing the roughly 23,000 in-state insurance agents and 107,000 agents selling insurance in Kansas from outside the state.

Shultz spent 17 years in the Kansas House as a Lindsborg Republican representing the 73rd District from 1997 to 2014, when he joined the Senate as a representative of the 35th District after being appointed by his local precinct committee to replace Jay Elmer in the wake of his resignation.

As a senator, he served as the Insurance Department’s legislative liaison under Selzer. During his time in the House, he also chaired the insurance committee for more than nine years, and he currently teaches a class about insurance and risk at Washburn University in Topeka.

“All of that I think is good for the state because as… (insurance) commissioner, you’re watching over the citizens of Kansas, so I think it pays to have some experience doing that,” Shultz said.

He compared himself to Ron Todd, who was assistant state insurance commissioner for 20 years before becoming commissioner in 1991.

After working in the state insurance department for three and half years, Shultz says he’s ready for the job.

Schmidt, his opponent, is a pharmacist by trade with no direct experience in the state insurance department, though she currently chairs the Senate Public Health Welfare Committee, the Child Welfare System Task Force, and subcommittees on health and social services.

“In three and a half years working in the department, I’m equipped. I am,” Shultz said. “Insurance is complicated business. It’s not just a general business. It’s very technical in nature. It’s very diverse.”

Shultz says he feels good about his run this time because he’s been active in the department, knows the players and companies, and is “up to speed” on what’s going on.

“I think the more experience that a person can have in this position, the better it is for consumers,” Shultz said. “That’s what I believe, and I think that the Legislature years ago knew that and they put that in statute, and I think they’re correct.”

Shultz noted the increasing role of insurance in people’s everyday lives, from health insurance to cellphone insurance. He said he thinks the importance of well regulated, efficient insurance continues to increase.

During his visit to The Telegram, Shultz was accompanied by Melvin Neufeld, former House Republican from Garden City who served in the Legislature for 24 years. Neufeld also served on the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees for three years, before Leonard Hitz unseated him in the November 2017 election.

Neufeld noted that Shultz served as vice chairman on the House Appropriations Committee at a time when he chaired it. He lauded Shultz’s negotiating skills, adding that the insurance commissioner has to negotiate not only with state lawmakers but also with insurance companies in advocacy of Kansas consumers.

“The important qualification that Clark never talks about, in the 24 years I was around the Legislature, (is that) Clark is the most trusted legislator in the history of the capital as far as I’m concerned,” Neufeld said.

 

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.