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Former Gov. Wilson heads insurance company that got its start as 'public option'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2009 - Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson says he's enjoying his new job as acting president and CEO of Missouri Employers Mutual, which provides workers compensation insurance for about 15,000 companies.

The mutual owes its roots to the Missouri Legislature, which set it up in 1993 with a $5 million loan in a public effort to lower compensation rates for small businesses in the state, which Wilson says were "getting hammered'' by high premiums charged by private insurers.

The government-created mutual prompted compensation rates to drop 25 percent, Wilson said. The mutual has paid back its $5 million loan to the state.

The Columbia, Mo.-based mutual's history sounds similar to some proposals before Congress to revamp health insurance by creating a public option or cooperative in a bid to get insurance rates lowered overall.

Wilson took over as chief executive in June, with the retirement of then-CEO Dennis Smith.

Wilson talked about his new pursuit during a brief interview Wednesday after the funeral of former Missouri Gov. Warren Hearnes.

Wilson was among five current or former governors who attended the service. The only two living former Missouri governors who were unable to attend: Democrat Joe Teasdale of Kansas City and now-U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who sent his condolences.

A Democrat, Wilson was lieutenant governor from 1993-2000, when he was elevated following the Oct. 16, 2000 plane crash that killed then-Gov. Mel Carnahan. Wilson served almost three months, until fellow Democrat Bob Holden was inaugurated in January 2001. He spent 14 years in the state Senate, from 1979-93.

Wilson has worked for years with the financial management firm Rockwood Capital Advisors, based in Brentwood.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.