South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has chosen Elanor Kitzman, founder and past president of Driver’s Choice Insurance Services, of Columbia to head South Carolina’s Insurance Department.
Kitzman has been active in the South Carolina insurance industry, and a member of the National Association of Women’s Business Owners and the South Carolina Governor’s Commission on Women.
Kitzman founded Driver’s Choice in 1999 with five employees. The company now has 45 employees at five offices.
Kitzman sold Driver’s Choice in 2002 and remained as president until October.
Sanford selected Kitzman because she met his four criteria for a cabinet-level position. He wanted someone from outside the political sphere with credibility in the business world, a commitment to service and a commitment to free markets.
While working in North Carolina in 1997, Kitzman testified at the S.C. State House in support of rule changes designed to spur competition among auto insurers.
“What was important was we were deregulating and bringing competition in the auto market to South Carolina,” she said.
For Sanford, a free-market approach to insurance regulation really means deregulation.
Last year, the state’s insurance laws were loosened again, this time for homeowners policies. Insurance companies are now allowed to raise rates by 7 percent without getting approval. The idea was by doing this, more insurance companies would do business in the state.
For coastal areas especially, Sanford said, competition is an important part of creating a viable insurance market. In Kitzman, Sanford has a new insurance director who believes strongly in the free market.
“Competition may not be a panacea, but it solves most problems,” Kitzman said.
The governor also said he wanted somebody who could approach the job with the energy, if not also the knowledge, possessed by former director Ernst Csiszar, the only holdover from Gov. Jim Hodges’ administration. Csiszar left the post in August to become head of the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America.