Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday named Steven B. Larsen, his chief legislative officer and point man in the successful battle to enact "Smart Growth" legislation this year, to be insurance commissioner.
Larsen, 37, is to succeed Dwight K. Bartlett III, who is retiring tomorrow.
As commissioner, Larsen will be the state's chief regulator of the Maryland insurance industry's rates and business practices. He will also be the licensing authority for companies, agents, brokers and adjusters.
He will take over the post June 16. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate during next year's session.
Larsen will bring to the job extensive experience in insurance issues. Two years ago he helped craft the governor's high-profile -- but ultimately unsuccessful -- effort to rein in auto insurance rates in Baltimore. From September 1993 until he joined the Glendening administration in January 1995, he was senior counsel for USF&G Corp., the Baltimore-based insurance giant.
Nine months ago, Larsen became Glendening's chief legislative aide, a job in which he worked with the General Assembly to win passage of the governor's legislative agenda. In that post, he was able to work cordially with legislative leaders despite their sometimes testy relations with his boss.
"I can't say enough about his ability as well as his common sense and judgment," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., who has frequently clashed with Glendening. "I think he will do an outstanding job."
During the recent Assembly session, Larsen was especially active on environmental issues, including the Smart Growth initiative to contain sprawling development and the "brownfields" effort to reclaim polluted industrial sites.
Both initiatives passed in a form that was acceptable to the governor -- an achievement for which legislative insiders give Larsen a considerable share of the credit.
"He's been a strong advocate for the governor," said John Stierhoff, a lobbyist. "He's very accessible. He's an honest broker. People always leave Steve's office thinking that they've had a fair airing of their issues."
Larsen gained experience in insurance issues as staff counsel of the House Economic Matters Committee, then chaired by Taylor, from 1988 until 1991.
According to Taylor, Larsen spent "a good 50 percent" of his time in that job on insurance matters, dealing with many of the arcane but contentious issues of vital interest to consumers.
"His experience in the legislature will allow him to see all sides of the insurance issues that are going to come to bear,"said Stierhoff.
Bartlett, 66, leaves to resume private consulting.
He became commissioner in 1993 after Maryland's insurance regulation had been criticized as weak. He is widely credited with improving the agency's administration.
Pub Date: 5/01/97