Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

Body Shop Owner Matt Parker is Running for LA Insurance Commissioner

When Autobody News recently spoke to Matt Parker he was taking a break from the campaign trail in Louisiana and preparing for a fundraising event the following week. The owner of Parker Auto Body in West Monroe is running for Louisiana Insurance Commissioner.

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Before Parker announced his candidacy on March 2, his election team conducted a phone poll with 600 voters across the state. The intent was to get a pulse on the knowledge base of Louisiana's residents.

"The deeper we dug the more we found that the policy holders in LA aren't being treated fairly by their insurance companies," Parker said. He also learned that insurance rates in LA are nearly double the national average for homeowners insurance and one of the highest in the nation for automobile insurance.

"Nobody that we have talked to likes what is happening and most of them have their own horror stories where they have been taken advantage of by the insurance industry," said Parker.

Parker, a Republican, said he never had political aspirations but decided to run for Insurance Commissioner to educate the people of LA and help make a difference in the industry.

He has vowed not to take any money from insurance companies to fund his campaign. "I dont feel you can regulate an industry if you're taking money from them," he said.

Parker said he came from modest beginnings. "We didnít have a lot but we had enough," said the LA native. Once he realized he enjoyed doing auto body work, he tried to learn as much as he could.

He decided to join the Air Force in 1978. ìI looked at my orders and I saw England. I said, ëman, weíre getting to go overseas,í then I read a little further and saw Alexandria, LA. He served for four years and was stationed at England Airforce base in Alexandria, LA.

When Parker left the military, he rented a couple of stalls and a mechanic shop in Monroe, LA. He applied for a bank loan to fund his business and was refused several times. However, Parker didn't give up. After six months, the loan officer finally told him that he was the most persistent person he had ever met and was going to give him a $100,000 loan. That money enabled Parker to purchase a building for Parker Auto Body.

At one point he operated three locations but now has one big store. His daughter Amber is in charge of managing the books and Amber and his son-in-law Drew Randall help oversee both operations, his tire store and body shop. Parkerís youngest son Grant will soon be working in the family business as well.

"If we don't take this industry back, these kids wonít have a future," said Parker.

He said there are a lot of shops that feel the same way. ìWhat needs to happen is these body shops need to step up. More and more of them are doing it but weíre still a long way from where we should be.

Parker said one way to get involved is by becoming part of the antitrust Multi District Lawsuit in Florida. The business owner joined the lawsuit in April 2014 after frustration with insurance companies dictating how to run his business. He traveled to Congress twice in 2014 to discuss the challenges body shops face protecting consumers while providing a safe repair, and recently appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, which looked into auto insurance practices.

"My job is to help make a difference and to expose this to the people of LA and hopefully around the country," he said.

Parker is also working with LA Senator Bob Kostelka to help pass legislation on the use of aftermarket parts. He said that until it is proven that aftermarket parts go through the same testing as OEM parts, "They should not be allowed to put them on the vehicle because it affects the timing of the airbag deployment. To me, itís not an insurance issue, itís a safety issue."

The election for the four-year term of Insurance Commissioner is on October 24, 2015.

"Even if John Mosley and I don't win, the people of Louisiana and Mississippi will be educated as to what these insurance companies are doing to them, said Parker. I think some changes will happen even if we don't win but I'm planning on winning."

More information about his campaign is available on Facebook: Matt Parker Insurance Commissioner and www.mattparkerforlouisiana.com 

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