Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that Alabama Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling will retire at the end of June.
Ridling’s retirement comes after nearly 14 years serving in the role as Alabama’s longest serving insurance commissioner and the longest serving appointed commissioner in the country.
“As Alabama’s longest serving insurance commissioner, Jim has kept stability in the agency, all while bringing fresh ideas to ensure our state was offering our people the best, whether that be in times of natural disaster or simply in our day-to-day lives,” Ivey said. “I am truly grateful Jim dedicated so many years to the State of Alabama and wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”
Ridling also served as the chairman of the Southeast Zone of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) for a decade and led Alabama to be reaccredited by the NAIC on three separate occasions, including in April of 2022. Ridling established the Strengthen Alabama Homes (SAH) program in his department, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to Alabama residents for home fortification. By the end of 2022, Alabama is expected to have helped 5,000 homes become fortified, making Alabama the No. 1 state in the nation for the most residential homes fortified to Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) standards.
“Jim has been a consistent and tireless advocate for home fortification and statewide resiliency in times of disaster,” Ivey said.
In May, the IBHS named Ridling the recipient of its inaugural Lifetime Achievement in Resilience Award. Ridling also created the Insurance Fraud Bureau within the Department of Insurance dedicated to investigating allegations of criminal insurance fraud and a cyber-security center to protect Alabamians from cyber criminals. He also effectively recruited more than a dozen new property insurance companies to serve Alabama’s coastal communities.
“I am deeply blessed to have had the wonderful experience of serving the people of Alabama as Commissioner of Insurance,” Ridling said. “I am especially appreciative of Gov. Kay Ivey for her leadership and all she has done for the people of our great state.
“Serving in her administration has been an honor and a pleasure. I also appreciate, so much, the work of the dedicated and professional state employees who staff the Department of Insurance. They are amazing. We have done some great things together, and I know we will all be able to look back on these years with pride.”
Riddling, an Arkansas native, graduated from the University of the Ozarks and entered into management training with Fireman’s Fund Insurance. He went on to serve in several management positions before becoming Executive Vice President of U.S. Operations. Ridling went on to become owner of Southern Guaranty, a Fireman’s Fund Insurance subsidiary headquartered in Montgomery. He served as the company’s president and CEO until his retirement in 2003.
Ridling and a number of other local Montgomery business owners founded River Bank and Trust in which he serves on the Board of Directors. He has also previously served as Chairman of the Board of Directions for Jackson Hospital and also served on the Boards of Directors for Montgomery Airport Authority, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central Alabama Community Foundation. He was initially appointed Insurance Commissioner by former Gov. Bob Riley in 2008 and reappointed by Ivey in 2011 and 2017.
Ivey has named Department of Insurance Deputy Commissioner Mark Fowler as the department’s acting commissioner, effective July 1. Fowler is an Auburn University graduate that has served as Deputy Commissioner since 2018. Prior to that, he served as the Chief of Staff for the Department of Insurance for four years and Government Relations Manager for a year.
Before being hired by the Department of Insurance, Fowler served in a number of roles in both the private and public sectors. He was a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Howell Heflin in the 1980s for four years and became Manager of Legislative Affairs for Rockwell International in 1989. He’s also served as Director of Administrative Services for The Sentencing Institute, Executive Director of the Alabama Chemical Association, Vice President of Communications for Manufacture Alabama, Director of Southeast Electricity Consumers Association, Executive Director of Alabama Agribusiness Council, Executive Director of Alabama Cable Telecommunications Association and Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Leadership and Public Policy at Alabama State University. He’s also been an associate at The Jones Group and a Principal at RMF Consulting.