It's Not Everyday You End Up In A Magazine
An interview with Independent Agent Magazine
Ken Parker, owner of The Parker Agency in White River Junction made this month's Independent Agent Magazine.
Here is his interview:
Published in Independent Agent Magazine, October 2017, Author Jacquelyn Connelly
White River Junction, Vermont
Since the 1970s, Ken Parker has run his business in the same town where he grew up—deep roots for his conviction that “every agent owes something to their community.”
And for more than 30 years, Parker has been doing his part to give back by teaching the importance of auto insurance to a group notorious for apathy: teenagers taking driver’s ed.
I like to dispel some of the common myths: “Does it cost more to insure a red car than any other car?” Nope, but if you drive a red car carelessly, it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I tell them their parents are their best friends, because if their parents are willing to put them on their auto policy, they’ll get higher limits, lower costs and better coverage. We talk about what they might earn at an after‑school job and how many hours they would have to work to buy a policy on their own if they’ve had a couple convictions and an accident. It’s not a lecture—it’s a give and take.
We should approach them with open arms. The younger generations have a great deal to offer. We have to adapt to the ways they approach markets and subject matter, and make efforts to appeal to them on their level.
Photo: Caleb Kenna
I’ve always had a social conscience about me, and I look at insurance in a way as taking care of people. I’ve had a dedicated staff over the years and a lot of dedicated clients who have been with me since the late ’70s. It’s fulfilling.
My parents owned a restaurant here, and that was an experience that had me dealing with all kinds of people from all walks of life and all stripes of the economic scale. I left the community and went away to college at the University of Vermont, and when I finished I spent part of the year working in the governor’s office. When that stint ended, I came back to town. That was in 1970, and there were relatively few job opportunities around here at the time. A friend of my dad’s and mine lined me up with a job with General Motors—I worked there about a year and decided that corporate life was not something that fit my interests or wishes, so I became a licensed Vermont real estate agent.
I started a real estate agency in 1972, but I reached a point in the early stages of the development of my business where I realized I needed something that had less volatility in terms of my income. The logical partnership was with an insurance operation. I had no background in insurance whatsoever, but I had some friends in another community that I had done some real estate pro-brokerage with—two brothers who had a dual agency. They agreed to let me broker some business with them until I could get my feet on the ground and attract some companies. I like to think I learned one step ahead of the next claim.
I’ve always been involved with things in my community. When I was 23, I was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives—at the time, the youngest person to ever be elected. Later in life, I served for six years as a member of White River Junction’s Select Board, which is the same thing as a city council. Every other year, I served as chairman of the board. My community is in the throes of a resurgence, and I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of working with people from surrounding communities to try to create services that serve the entire area—not just a single community. When I was on the board, my community had several major capital projects going on, and they were projects that needed guidance and leadership. That was something I thrived at. It gave me a balance between the insurance side of my life and the continuing desire to serve my community.
Other than that, it’s been a lifelong passion of mine to enjoy nature—I love fly-fishing, and I skied for many years. Vermont has always been a special place because of some fundamental values the people have, particularly in regards to the environment. We’re an especially clean and green state, and a lot of us who have lived here for many years respect what we have. We realize we’re stewards and it’s incumbent upon us to maintain some of the heritage and natural beauty that draw people to Vermont.
I think we need to focus on the 28-45 age bracket—people who have started their career and found they didn’t like what they were doing. They’re grounded with a home and maybe a family, and they want to seize an opportunity that could lead to a lifelong career. I’m on the waning end of my time in this business, but I have great hope that there will be a surge of younger people who are looking to become part of a dynamic industry.