THE chairman of the board of Manitoba Public Insurance said Monday was a "sad, sad day" for MPI.
That's because Marilyn McLaren, the president and CEO of MPI for the past nine years, announced her retirement as of Feb. 21, 2014.
Jake Janzen, the board chairman said, "She has been with the corporation for 35 years and she really worked her way through the ranks. She just has an incomparable depth of knowledge of the corporation. If your neighbour's dog bites your tire it is a rare CEO of an insurance company who would know exactly who you need to call. Marilyn just knows so much."
Among other things during her tenure, McLaren was in charge of MPI when it implemented a revolutionary program to reduce auto theft.
That program has succeeded in reducing that scourge in Manitoba by 85 per cent since 2004.
She said while other jurisdictions have used co-ordinated multi-agency strategies like Manitoba did, none has done it to same extent and the same specificity as it has been done here.
"The interesting situation in Manitoba is that so few vehicle models were involved in 80 per cent of the thefts," she said.
More than 98 per cent of vehicles deemed "most at risk" to be stolen in Winnipeg have now been immobilized against theft.
McLaren, who recently turned 60, said she chose to retire now because the organization is as strong as it has ever been.
"I have an amazing team and it just seems like the right time," she said.
Janzen said the board of directors will strike a search committee and in consultation with a search firm will solicit applications from qualified candidates.
"We will review those applications and with a bunch of hard work and with any luck at all we will find someone who approaches Marilyn's capabilities," he said.
Janzen said the board hopes some of the current management team will apply for the corporation's top job.
"There are some strong leaders who don't surround themselves with really good subordinate managers," he said. "One of the strengths of Marilyn's leadership, from the board's perspective, was her willingness to surround herself with really good people."
Her retirement announcement comes as the Public Utilities Board is reviewing an application from MPI for a 1.8 per cent increase in auto insurance premiums, which would be the first rate increase in 10 years.
Over that period of time, auto insurance premiums in Manitoba have declined by 17 per cent, something of which McLaren is, not surprisingly, proud.
"One thing we track closely is how do we do in relation to the rest of the country when it comes to the CPI for auto insurance," she said. "The rates here have been the most stable in the country over the last long period of time."
McLaren said she is not planning to look for another position, but she figures she'll do a little more volunteer work and spend time with her grandchildren.
"My plan is to figure out how to spend my time," she said. "I have not got it figured out just yet but I will."