Jill Duggan Hale moved up to president of the Austin Association of Insurance Professionals even though her current role is less directly thought of as insurance. Now on the benefits side, Hale is in partnership development at Magnolia Hospice, where she works alongside health care providers and families, helping educate them to navigate the Medicare benefit for hospice care.

Hale was president-elect through much of the pandemic that led to her layoff from business development with Medical Equation, a workers’ comp service provider that lost revenue when the TDI Division of Workers’ Comp adopted emergency measures to limit physical interaction in claims review. Hale said she is very proud of the work she does in hospice care, as she finds the work fulfilling and life changing for her clients.

Previously, Hale was with the Insurance Council of Texas when she joined the Austin Association of Insurance Professionals in 2018, and the leadership of the local association fast tracked her into a leadership role. In 2019, Hale began active service on the AAIP board. Hale became president-elect for the 2020-21 term. Robby Moore, AAIP’s immediate past president, assured Hale that her role as a client on the health side of the insurance industry was in no way an impediment to her continued leadership and service to AAIP.

Hale was installed president during the May 4 Zoom meeting of AAIP by FIWT President Wendy Rhoden, Patterson and Associates. Also in attendance representing the state association were FIWT Executive Director Kristie Gray and Corresponding Secretary Janet Dawson, Higginbotham. Hale met with the board on June 1 in an outdoor café, hosting the first in-person meeting that AAIP has held in over a year. “Some members are still reluctant to meet in person,” said Hale, noting that in some cases their employers are discouraging in-person attendance at business related functions. Nearly all of the 10 board members were present for their initial board meeting to share their thoughts on the goals for the local association in the coming year. They anticipated that the mid-June meeting of the full membership would be the last of the virtual ones.

Topping Hale’s agenda for the year is “to reconnect and reengage. We need to be crafty with our outreach,” she said. Hale, whose undergraduate degree is in communications, said the immediate plans include increasing quality communication with the members, many of whom disengaged when the only way of getting together was virtually. Hale also holds an MBA with a specialty in mediation and conflict resolution. Hale earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Edward’s University in Austin.

Despite the scattered nature of the past year, said Hale, AAIP members mobilized instantly on request from Wooten Elementary School’s Parent Support Specialist Bernardo Martinez. Accustomed to clothing drives for the inner city school it has supported for more than 21 years, AAIP members responded immediately and generously with coats and blankets during the winter storm. With members dropping off donations at the school directly without knowing how much participation came from other AAIP members, Martinez reported back that the Austin locals “rose to the occasion tenfold.”

With renewed energy for the work of the AAIP, Hale and the board are determined to continue the association’s work with Wooten Elementary and the Austin area animal shelters.

AAIP’s work with the animal shelter is an outgrowth of the statewide charity chosen by Rhoden in 2019. Hale said the needs of animal shelters are getting critical now. As many return to work with the easing of pandemic restrictions, Hale explained, well-intentioned folks are returning the pets they adopted during their house-bound days. Going back to work, said Hale, many were unprepared to return home at the end of the day to a pet with separation anxiety that tore things up. The unprepared folks’ solution has been to return previous shelter residents to the shelters, giving rise to overcrowding and depleting shelters’ resources.

The local will also host a Top Golf event as a fundraiser in April 2022.

Virtual-only meetings pushed some of the fence-sitting members off the fence, Hale said, of the AAIP members whose lives were upended by the pandemic. Hale is hoping to recapture them and add new faces and new blood to the leadership of the association. “We have three new faces on the board,” said Hale, who predicted they would infuse the association with fresh ideas. “I am very proud of the AAIP board that has been assembled for 21-22,” said Hale.

Also installed as officers for AAIP on May 4 for one-year terms were President-elect Jessica Hahn, Risk Placement Services; Vice President Meghan Welte, Service Lloyds; Treasurer Veronica Ramirez, Ed Weeren Insurance Agency; Secretary Lindsey Burton, Risk Placement Services, and Past President Moore, Professional Line Underwriting Specialists (PLUS). New directors on the board are Beth Reese, Texas Mutual, and Josh vonFrisch, Columbia Insurance Group. Returning as a director is Marjolyn Varano, PLUS.