The Brannan Firm

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Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Ryan Brannan, Commissioner of Workers' Compensation, Texas Department of Insurance

Career highlights and education: I have bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Methodist University (SMU), as well as a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. After a few years in private law practice, I wanted to change directions and enter the public service arena. For the last seven years, I've been able to wake up every morning and have a chance to make Texas a better place. It's exciting. I was fortunate to have a position that allowed me to write and advocate critical policy positions, to be published in many state periodicals and ended up in my being offered a job in the Governor's Budget, Planning and Policy Division. Those three years working in the Governor's Office, crafting legislative and regulatory policy, were very rewarding. I am personally most proud of being appointed the commissioner of Workers' Compensation by Gov. Rick Perry and being unanimously confirmed by the Texas Senate. In addition, under Gov. Greg Abbott's leadership, we have accomplished a lot in the Texas workers' compensation system. We have streamlined processes, reduced backlogs and begun moving paperless. We also have helped injured workers get better, more timely health care, created educational opportunities to help navigate the system and reduced the number of disputes, getting workers back on the job in a shorter amount of time.

What I like best about my job is: The challenge and the people. Regulating the workers' compensation system is inherently treacherous. Every stakeholder has strong opinions, and they're often at odds with each other. Bringing the valid points together from contentious factions ruffles feathers - constantly. When we get it right and can move the ball toward a better regulatory climate, then those challenges become very rewarding. What makes it possible is the people at the agency. Day in and day out, our team is constantly working to make the system better. We can keep an eye on the developing trends and determine where attention should be focused. These are jobs that could not be done without the devotion of every person at the division. I would put these 600+ employees up against anyone else in the state.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: I had several people describe the same thing to me in different ways: This job is a balancing act. The best way I heard it described was: "Comp is like a chess board balancing on a needle. If you decide to move one piece, you need to balance the whole board or it won't work." I like that analogy, because it forces you to remember to think several moves ahead and consider the consequences on the whole system when making a decision.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: We are all on a team, and the goal is to make the Texas workers' compensation system the best it can be. If we remember what we're striving for, it helps us move in the same direction. I also consistently remind folks to seek advice from all over the agency. We have such a vast and wide-ranging knowledge base here that it really helps to see problems from all angles before we try to tackle them.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Well, right now we have a 22-month old and a 1-month old at home. So, if I'm not at the office, I'm at the house trying to lend a hand. I usually end up having to prepare for the next day after everyone is asleep. Maybe several years down the road I could say something like golf or fishing, but it will be a while.

People would be surprised to know that I: I played lacrosse at SMU, I love Impressionist art and I collect vinyl. All those things seem to surprise people. I was also on nationally ranked debate and mock trial teams, and I enjoy traveling.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Texas has one of the best workers' compensation systems in the country. We have some of the best outcomes, both for employers and for injured workers.

Elizabeth Custy