In Texas, Even the Loss of Leadership is Big

Bob Wilson

I was somewhat dismayed this week to hear of the announced resignation of Texas Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Ryan Brannan. His scheduled departure at the end of this month is a loss for Texas, as well as for our greater industry. While his plans for the future have not been announced, it is apparent that he feels the time to leave is right, and, to use a phrase long attributed to the Lone Ranger, “his work here is done.”

I’m really hesitant to say wonderful things about Brannan just yet. He is still in the industry and does from time to time read my blog. Any glorious things I utter here may go right to his head, expanding it beyond reasonable levels. And after all, someone’s going to have to help carry that thing out with the rest of his crap on May 1st. It just doesn’t seem right to do that to someone.

The truth of the matter is that Ryan Brannan has had a Texas sized impact on the agency he has led. Workers’ comp costs in the state have continued to drop during his time in position. Systems were streamlined, important reorganizations occurred, and unnecessary expenses and inefficiencies were reduced or eliminated. Additionally, a lot more employers have entered the system under his watch. Texas is a non-subscription state where carrying comp is optional, and as recently as 4 years ago only 67% of employers chose to do so. Today that number is pushing 80%. In a state where an entity like workers’ comp has to establish value in the minds of its employers, that speaks volumes about the progress being made there.

I should also mention he had an outsized influence on helping Kids’ Chance of Texas become a reality.

If you know Commissioner Brannan, you know that he has a terrific sense of humor. He is a person who takes his job quite seriously, while recognizing that life doesn’t always have to be completely serious. Having the opportunity to interact with him and get to know him over the last few years has been a true pleasure. I will miss that, as will many people who have worked with him during this time.

Brannan is the second big name to leave a regulatory position in a major state in as many weeks. California’s Christine Baker announced earlier that she too was leaving her position. When that fact was mentioned to Brannan in a well-wishing tweet, he replied with “I had to do it. I can’t let California beat us in anything.”

I did mention he had a sense of humor, didn’t I?

These changes will have major impact for many across our industry. The direction and tenor of the agencies often reflect the priorities and proclivities of the people who steer them, and the unknown about what is to come can be a looming concern. That still does not diminish the impact these people have had, as much of their work will live on.

In Texas the footprint is large, and the loss will be felt. I certainly wish Ryan Brannan well, and hope for continued success in whatever lies ahead for him. Rumors that this future includes running a chain of pork barbecue stands is largely unfounded and could not be confirmed at press time.

Best of luck and Godspeed, Ryan. You’ll be missed.