Every business has an anchor. They’re the go-to person who knows every corner of the business and is familiar with all operations. In a crisis, no one is more valuable.
Often the anchor doubles as the company historian and that — combined with knowing all aspects of company operation — is invaluable and almost impossible to replace.
For the PIA Western Alliance the impossible to replace person is Sue Smith, the Vice President of For Profit Operations. After 22 years of worrying about employees, company finances, the technology that fuels all things these days and more, Sue is retiring.
PIA Western Alliance Executive Vice President and CEO Clark Sitzes says Sue’s loss will be deeply felt by the staff, the boards of directors and by its membership.
“Every company has that special someone who makes everything — for lack of a better word — better,” he said. “She knows every corner of this business from accounting, to membership, to marketing and — for years — has managed the technology we use to keep things going.”
That’s Sue Smith at work. On a personal level, he said, “Sue has been my employee, colleague and friend for the better part of 22 years. It’s hard to imagine not having her around on a daily basis. To say Sue will be missed is an understatement. We — those she works with daily — will miss her terribly.”
Retirement will be more interesting for Sue than that of the average retiree. Sue and her husband have purchased a home in Costa Rica. She says it’s the least humid part of the country and has the least amount of rainfall.
Still, she will — however — miss the PIA. “I’m going to miss the people at the PIA the most,” she said. “I will miss them a lot. Over 22 years, I’ve worked with a lot of people here. We’ve had a lot of great people working here and I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of them. So the worst part about retiring is missing all of them.”
Sue — like all of those blessed to work in the insurance business — has found it to be a fascinating career. Much of what she learned about insurance was learned from Clark.
“He’s been great to work with. He soaks in everybody’s knowledge,” she said. “Clark is not one to micromanage you. He wants you to give him the information he needs to make decisions. Clark is also an expert in association management. Working with him you get more of an appreciation of what everybody else doing. I’ve loved working with him.”
At one time — most people do not know — Clark worked as a lobbyist. “A big plus,” Sue said, “has been learning a lot about the lobbying side of the business. The Political part. Until I met him, I didn’t know how all that worked. That gave me a perspective of insurance from a whole different level.”
Why Costa Rica?
“I love the climate,” she said. “The weather is great, the cost of living is affordable. Other than always having 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, it is perfect for retiring.”
Sue doesn’t plan on wasting her 22 years at the PIA and won’t do a complete retirement. “I’ll do some work for PIA in the future, and some consulting. So I’m not totally leaving.”
That’s something Senior Vice President Kim Legato likes to hear.
“Her knowledge and expertise have served the association well,” she said. “On a personal level, and as a colleague, and a partner who has worked with me to manage the day-to-day operations of the company, Sue has been a rock and, on a daily basis, has made my professional life at the PIA better.”
Kim — like her PIA colleagues, Clark Sitzes and the various PIA boards — will miss Sue.
“We wish her nothing but the best in her new life as she moved to Costa Rica. We will miss her but we know that this next phase of her life will be exactly how she wants it, by the pool sipping umbrella drinks.”
The PIA Western Alliance Bids Sue Smith Farewell
About PIA Western Alliance
The Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance is a membership organization promoting and enhancing the success of independent agencies seeking to grow, learn and be heard within the industry.
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