Before Republican Jon Godfread won the election for insurance commissioner in North Dakota last week, the outgoing commissioner, Adam Hamm, spoke to Carrier Management about his decision not to seek reelection and his work at North Dakota’s insurance department and in various positions at the NAIC.

“When you run for statewide office, it’s a huge commitment. At the very top of that list of commitments is the fact that it’s a four-year term,” he said. “You have to go through that mental analysis of, ‘Do I want to do this for another four years? Do I have the fire in my belly to do it?'”

“When I went through that analysis four years earlier in the fall of 2011, I couldn’t wait to run for another four years. I had a number of things I wanted to get done. I was already an officer at the NAIC at that point, so I knew I’d be the president in 2014…”

“When I did that analysis in the fall of 2015, the fire wasn’t there. Looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t commit that if I ran and won in 2016 that I would serve all four years. What I didn’t want to do is run and win and then halfway through my term leave for some other opportunity.

“At the end of the day, none of these elected officials are in lifetime jobs. There’s a shelf life for all of them. It’s critical for any statewide elected official to realize when your shelf life is up and that it’s time to move on.”

What Hamm will move on to do is still to be determined. “I would like to use the skills and experience that I’ve been fortunate to attain over the last nine years and to stay in the insurance sector in some way, shape or form. What that would entail, that’s what I’m working through at this point,” he said, when asked if his future might be insurance or politics.

“I would like to use the skills and experience that I’ve been fortunate to attain over the last nine years and to stay in the insurance sector in some way, shape or form.
Hamm’s interest in politics dates back to the beginning of 1998. When he worked in the state prosecutor’s office, he was politically active in the Cass County Republican party—something that probably helped him land the insurance department spot when it opened up. “If you are in a leadership position as I was in Fargo, you get to know all of the elected officials,” which at the time included Jim Poolman, the former commissioner, and Governor John Hoeven. “We are on a first-name basis here, which is different than a lot of other states,” Hamm said, noting that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem encouraged Hamm to consider the commissioner opening in 2007.

But a younger Hamm had different career aspirations—first wanting to be a professional athlete and later redirecting his efforts to law enforcement. “I actually went to college to become a cop,” he said, noting that he attended a top criminal justice program at Sam Houston State University. But as he learned from professors who were former law enforcement agents with FBI and DEA, the student found his interests evolving toward prosecutorial work.

All these years later, as Hamm prepares for his next career chapter and takes everything in for the last time—attending his final NAIC sessions, agent forums and internal meetings within the department—the self-proclaimed “action junkie” said what he’ll miss most is “the variety of the work, the pace of it and the fact that within the insurance sector, you get all of the information first.”

“It’s amazing how you go from one day you’re in the know on everything, and in the know immediately, to the next day when you’re no longer commissioner; you’re out of that immediate information loop,” he said. “After nine years doing this, it has become almost second nature for me to multitask a hundred different times a day,” he said, noting that some former ex-commissioner colleagues have warned him that the transition will take some getting used to.