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Selzer says he’ll help Kansas grow

Making state great again requires focus on ag, efficiency

POSTED May 15, 2018 10:11 a.m.

 Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, one of four Republican gubernatorial candidates, said his vision for the state is a simple one.

“We want to make Kansas grow,” he said during a stump stop at the Great Bend Tribune Tuesday morning. “In order to make that happen, agriculture has to grow.”

He was in Great Bend Tuesday on a multi-day, western Kansas campaign swing pushing his ag agenda. In four days, he will visit nine county Farm Bureau board meetings.

Selzer grew up on a farm near Goessell, married a farm girl and still farms south of Kansas City. He said he is the only one of the GOP candidates still in the ag business.

But, there is more to the picture, said Selzer who has served as commissioner since 2015. “We need to lean in on costs.” 

He touted his four years in the Insurance Office during which he’s bolstered efficiency. He said he’s cut staff 20 percent and reduced costs while improving productivity.

“I brought some basic business principles to this insurance agency,” he said. He wants to do the same to the state as a whole.

“People rightly think we can run our state in a similar manner,” Selzer said. “We want to focus on serving the customers of Kansas.”

But, as a candidate, he has a long road ahead of him.

In the Aug. 7 GOP primary, he faces strong front-runners incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and former state senator Jim Barnett. The winner would challenge the Democratic primary victor from a field that includes Arden Andersen, Jack Bergeson, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, state Sen. Laura Kelly, Robert Klingenberg, former Kansas Ag Secretary Joshua Svaty and Michael Tabman.

The general election would be Nov. 6.

Still, “there’s a clear path forward,” Selzer said. “We’re confident we are headed in the right direction.”

For example, he said his team plans on announcing an ag advisory board as well as his lieutenant gubernatorial running mate in the near future.

He also said he is “rock solid” on the Second Amendment and pro-life issues.

Challenges

“Kansas is one of four states with negative growth,” Selzer said. Sure, the economy has ticked upwards slightly, but the growth trends are flat.

Then there is the state’s $7 billion budget, most of which goes to education. “We need to demand more accountability from our schools and demand more value,” he said.

It’s not just education. Medicaid, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections and others are examples of the need for better efficiency.

“We  have the experience to better run the State of Kansas,” he said. “The governor’s office is not managing the state. Being governor is far more than being political.”

Drawing on his rural roots, Selzer said agriculture is makes up about half the state’s economy. Manufacturing, aviation and service jobs are important, but all hinge on the success of farming.

“We will be champions for ag,” he said. His administration will push for new markets and new innovations, promoting such products and ethanol.

He also challenges his opponents to be more transparent, noting he has released his tax returns for the past three years. “We want to be a leader on transparency,” he said.

And, there is the continual out migration from Kansas and the need to match employees with employers. He promotes public-private partnerships and the creation of certification programs at the state’s colleges as a way of harnessing scarce resources and meeting these needs.

Background

A certified public accountant, Selzer was elected as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner in 2014 and began serving in that position on Jan. 12, 2015. He previously worked in the reinsurance industry for more than 30 years, most recently as an executive managing director for Aon Benfield, a worldwide brokerage and insurance services firm.

He is active in many professional, community, and charitable organizations. He has served as President of the Rotary Club of Leawood, Chairman of the Kansas Society of CPAs Educational Foundation, and President of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Heart of America Chapter. 

He is also an alumnus of Leadership Kansas.

He currently serves on the Advisory Council of the KSU College of Business and is a member of the KSU Foundation Board of Trustees. He has been inducted into the KSU Accounting Hall of Fame.

Selzer graduated with a bachelors in accounting from Kansas State University. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California.

A fourth generation Kansan, He grew up in McPherson and Marion counties. He has been married for 37 years to his wife, Deb, from rural Miami County, and they have two daughters and one grandchild.

Kansas is one of 12 states that elect rather than appoint its insurance commissioner. The role of this office is educate and assist consumers and advocate on their behalf. 

The office also regulates insurance companies and licenses 23,000 insurance agents in the state and 105,000 non-resident agents. They investigate allegations of insurance fraud, of which the state gets about 800 a year.  The department also has a consumer protection division.

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