PIA Montana’s annual conference was held last week. As always, the association hands out awards to the best of the PIA’s best.
The agent of the year award is the PIA’s way of saying thank you and recognizing that special individual whose accomplishments exemplify the best qualities an independent insurance agent can possess: integrity, dedication and commitment to the members and goals of the PIA. As an organization, we offer no greater recognition than the PIA agent of the year.
This year’s PIA Montana Agent of the Year is Deanna Darnielle, of Darnielle Insurance Agency in Billings.
As most of you know, you get into the insurance business one of two ways. You’re thrown into it, or your born into it. Deanna is of the born into it variety and having grown up in insurance, she breathes, eats and sleeps being an independent agent and in every way possible, encourages people to use an independent insurance agent when purchasing business and home and auto insurance, or both.
She is out there — in public — promoting the value of the independent agency system and the independent insurance agents of Montana with all of her advertising. One of her employees, Kaye Duncan told Weekly Industry News about how she advertises her agency.
“People recognize us because she advertises. She puts her face on TV commercials and her voice to radio,” Duncan said. “Deanna is always advocating for independent agents and what they can do for the consumer. And she explains what the independent insurance agents does for consumers by saying, ‘We have many tools in our tool box.’”
Even better, Deanna works closely with other agents in Billings.
Though it’s the biggest city in Montana, Deanna tells people that her town is a small town, and we — the independent agents of Montana — are all doing the same thing and have the same problems, and we all need to know what’s going on.
So why not stay in touch?
When it comes to her own clients, no one works harder for them than Deanna. She and her team go through every sentence on every page of every renewal to make sure everything the client needs is covered.
Kaye Duncan put it this way.
“I respect this woman so much. She deserves this award. She really cares about her employees and her clients. She loves to talk about insurance. It’s her passion. Her thing. She loves to talk talk about it. And she knows it very well,” Duncan said. “She knows her product and she’s willing to share and teach. She shares her knowledge and then encourages her employees to find the answer.”
Another plus, her door is always open.
Quoting Kaye Duncan again. “Everybody is important. The door is open to clients. No appointment necessary. Just walk in. I’ve never heard her say come back at another time. And even better, her door is always open to her employees and they’re never told to come back at another time, either.”
Duncan just could not stop bragging about her boss and how wonderful she is to the people who work there — people who’ve worked there for several decades to just one decade.
Once she hires you, she’s so wonderful to work for that you never want to leave.
The PIA Montana also awarded its annual company person of the year. Each year PIA members benefit from the contributions of time, money and expertise that come from our insurance company partners. In recognition of those contributions, the PIA honors one individual whose active involvement with PIA helps drive their company to support our efforts with our members.
The 2023 Company Person of the Year award went to Mindy Johnson of Big Sky Underwriters.
Don Williams of the D.L. Williams Agency in Missoula said she’s one of those people who has never encountered an unsolvable problem. “She thinks outside the box like no one I’ve ever known,” he told Weekly Industry News.
One of her co-workers, Michelle Trantino, bragged about her in a long conversation with Weekly Industry News and called her, “Awesome.”
Scott Tuxbury — who ran for Montana’s insurance commissioner and auditor position in 2020 — hired Mindy at Big Sky Underwriters. He calls her the best manager he’s ever known.
There’s three dimensions of an incredibly positive Montana insurance force from three different people. One is an agent, one a coworker, and is supervised by Mindy Johnson, and the other is the person who hired her.
We also know Mindy is an important “go-to” person for most of the agents that attended the Montana conference. Most know if you have an almost impossible to place risk, she will likely — via that think outside the box savvy — find a place to place that business.
And Tuxbury put her value to the independent agents of Montana in a brief, but powerful sentence.
“She’s fearless when it comes to making a hard decision,” he said.