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SERIES: I am the AICP: Featuring Twane Duckworth

Twane Duckworth is the Risk Manager for the City and County of Jacksonville, FL.  In addition to several miscellaneous insurance policies, Jacksonville has a self-insured, self-administered coverage program and is the only consolidated city/county in the state.  As a result, the city requires a special approach to most things cities or counties take for granted.  For example, the Mayor is also the top elected county official.  As a risk manager in this structure, Duckworth has to deal with the exposures generated by the Airport Authority, the Port Authority, the Housing Authority, the Electric Authority, regular city and county Departments like Public Works, Parks and Recreation as well as the Constitutional Officers – such as the Mayor, City Council members, the Property Tax Appraiser, the Public Defender and the State Attorney’s Office.  In all, he’s responsible for over 9000 employees spread out over more than 800 square miles.  He is a classically trained attorney.  He has worked as a prosecutor in Washington DC, Counsel to the Mayor and has been the Jacksonville Risk Manager since 2012.

First - How Do You Pronounce Your Name?  “It’s like Mark Twain.”  Invariably people recall the reminder and end up calling me Mark.  He respond’s “That’s close, but its Twane.”

Guiding Star: If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t worry about it today. 

How did you Fall into Insurance?  That’s an apt description.  I prosecuted criminals as an Assistant Attorney General in Washington DC (essentially a county prosecutor for the District) for six and a half years.  I grew tired of the beltway and longed to get back home to Florida where the pace and temperament are more comfortable.  I was the Assistant General Counsel to the Mayor for a few years and wanted to use more of my strategic and critical thinking skill sets.  The Risk Manager’s position came open, and being the Duckworth I am, I accepted the role, and then looked up what a Risk Manager did.  I had to be confirmed by the City Council which took an inordinately long time.  At the age of 32, with no insurance experience, I became the first African American and the youngest Risk Manager for Jacksonville.  I would not allow these intangible factors to define my success or failure.  I had to immerse myself, learn the language and accelerate my learning process.  It helped that past mentors taught me to listen more than talk.  In that way, you invite information in, and that can be powerful. 

What Does AICP Mean To You?  I joined AICP this year (2019).  I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the people in our industry.  It is an under-valued area and the discipline is somewhat hidden – people have no idea of the quality of people in the field. I have found insurance professionals are extremely competent and critical thinkers.  AICP provides an opportunity to learn forward by working in an exciting and fascinating field and to obtain information and different perspectives to manage risk.

Education: BA in Criminal Justice from Florida Memorial University and JD from Georgetown Law.  I have the ARM designation and I am within a year of having a Master’s in Risk Management from Florida State University.  I am also halfway done with my CIC designation – that is the formal education.  Informally, my dad taught me how to operate in different environments and with different people.  He was a Chief of Personnel in the US Air Force.  Two things about that – first, in relocating you would eventually have to see him, so it was advisable to play nice!  Second, because we went whereever he was based, the first thing he taught us kids is to get out a map and figure out the streets.  Figure out where you are, and how you need to get to safety if things go awry.  You look at things differently with that kind of mindset. 

Important Life Lesson:  Growing up travelling back and forth to the US as a military dependent also taught me about the benefits of American power and authority.  It is a responsibility we should accept graciously.  Watching my mom shepherd six kids through various cultures around the world showed me that all people essentially want the same things for our families, and we have the same intrinsic thought processes, goals and desires.  It is the nature of human nature.  A lamb gyro in Turkey is waaaay different than a lamb gyro in the US.  However, it is all food, and it’s all good.  I think as a result I approach risk management in a way that makes our employees partners, not claimants.  We work together to impact frequency and severity and look for positive outcomes for both the employer and employee.  Even with adverse third parties, I can show an interest in their perspective which tends to de-escalate matters.  You can’t adequately manage risk with a narrow or singular focus.  To be successful, you must look at each situation from all different standpoints.  An enterprise risk management approach is a more wholistic approach to risk management.  That approach has served me, and I think the City, well as a Risk Manager. 

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