WisPolitics.com is profiling some of the newly announced state agency heads. The latest installment features Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable.
The former chief legal officer at American Family Insurance is a Wisconsin transplant who was born in New York and raised in Illinois. He came to Wisconsin for college, attending Milwaukee’s Marquette University for both undergrad and law school.
61 years old. Born in New York, NY, but grew up in central Illinois.
Most recently worked as a chief legal officer at American Family Insurance; in all, spent nearly 25 years at the company, working as an executive vice president overseeing the claims division, as well as the sales and service division. Also worked as a chief compliance officer at American Family. Prior to that, worked for Allstate Insurance and the National Association of Independent Insurers.
Undergraduate degree in political science from Marquette University; law degree from Marquette University.
Married to wife, Peggy, with four adult children: three are in their mid-to-late 20s. One is in real estate development in Madison, another is working in HR in Chicago, and the third is a math and science teacher in South Milwaukee. The youngest, 19, is a freshman at Marquette. Also has a 5-year-old Australian Shepherd.
Favorite non-work interests?
Spends time with family and friends, follows a variety of sports: the Milwaukee Brewers and Marquette basketball. Enjoys reading primarily nonfiction. Currently reading two books: the first book of the trilogy “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill,” and “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by American surgeon Atul Gawande.
Why the interest in being in the Evers administration?
“I had a great career at American Family, as I said, almost 25 years there. But I was really looking for a way of serving my community in a different way. And I wasn’t thinking about public service, but when this opportunity came up, I thought it was a great fit. I’ll also say a lot of it has to do with Gov. Evers’ approach to governing. I was very drawn to that, his belief that government is really for the people and I share that belief.”
What are your priorities for the agency under your leadership?
“While wanting to continue maintaining (a) competitive, financially strong marketplace, I also think that we really need to focus on protecting consumers and educating consumers. We’re here to serve Wisconsinites, and I really think we can do a lot in that education space. And that’s for kids who are 16 who are buying their first car and needing to understand what insurance is and the impact of their insurance, up to folks who are getting ready to retire, making decisions about long-term care insurance and other insurance options that are available to them.”
What should the agency be doing differently?
“Well right now we’re spending a lot of time looking at what can we do differently, and we’re talking to a lot of different stakeholders about that. We want to talk to consumers, we want to talk to insurers, we want to talk to legislators, anybody who will talk to us, we want to hear how can we do this better.”
What’s the best advice you’ve received since getting the job?
“I’ve got lots of advice from different people. The first one is ‘don’t stress out, no one is listening to you anyhow.’ I’m just kidding about that, but that was from my wife because she knows I get nervous when I have to do public speaking and interviews like this, so that was her advice. But I also received some great advice from one of the former commissioners of insurance when I was visiting with that person. Their advice was: ‘Set your own course and don’t feel like you’re bound to what others have done before you.’ And I think that’s really good advice and I’m trying to implement that.”
“I can’t think of any really bad advice I’ve received. I try to take any advice I can get right now.”