Brokers, insurers, insurance service providers and agents donned masks, mostly not Covid masks, to attend Houston Insurance Day, sponsored by the Independent Insurance Agents of Houston, at the Marriott Westchase on Feb. 23. Instead of N95 masks, there were purple, green and gold masquerade masks highlighting the Mardi Gras theme of the conference that celebrated the association’s resumption of large scale in-person interactivity.

HID attracted 123 exhibitors and about 850 agents to fill two halls at the hotel and reconnect agents with markets. Along with the bustling exhibit area, the fully in-person event featured a luncheon that included annual awards, a keynote speaker and a king cake “Find the Baby” fundraiser for one of IIAH’s local charities, Brookwood Community.

The headline award recipient was Kristina Masek, help desk and training/licensing coordinator with Brady Chapman Holland and Associates, who was honored with the 2021 Outstanding Service Award. The award recognized Masek for her outstanding volunteer work with IIAH and the Houston community. In accepting the award, Masek said she views service as a civic duty passed on to her by her grandfather.

In presenting the award, IIAH Past President and Selection Committee Chairman Stuart Ray, Higginbotham, said that Masek’s Houston insurance career has spanned the last 42 years. She started in the industry as an adjuster for an insurer in the late 1970s. For the last 20 years, Masek has chaired or co-chaired IIAH committees, earning the Outstanding Chairman Award in 2007-08 for chairing the Education Committee, a chairmanship she held for 20 years until 2021 when she gave it up to recover from heart surgery.

Masek was instrumental in launching the first Energy Symposium in 2009, which ran for four years as a full-day event bringing together petrochemical and insurance leaders to explore current topics and emerging risks in the energy field. First time out, recalled Masek, about 400 people attended the event. Since then, said Masek, the International Risk Management Institute took over the energy seminar, and IIAH moved on to construction and trucking all-day symposiums.

Covid gave the Education Committee a hiatus from the in-person educational forums that work best, said Masek. She expects in-person C.E. days to resume soon. “We learn best with interaction,” she said.

Masek’s community outreach is through Bear Creek Ministries, where she teaches Microsoft Office applications to unemployed and underemployed clients, and her church, where she is a member of the choir and served several years as a religious instructor for seven-year-olds.

The Houston I-Days’ volunteer force has included Masek for many years at the registration desk, sometimes using vacation days to pitch in where needed to prepare for the big day.

But, said Ray, Masek’s “hands down claim to fame” is her passion for cooking everything from holiday cookies to chicken noodle casserole for family, friends, coworkers and some of the best attended IIAH committee meetings.

Other I-Day luncheon honorees included scholarship recipients, Shannon Hansen, Dean and Draper, and Kristen Hoffmaster, Harco Insurance Services. Both received $1,500 scholarships to continue their professional education in insurance. Scholarship sponsors included RT Specialty and Harco. The Harco scholarship is named in memory of Tom Mraz, late member of Harco Insurance family.

Former COO of Waste Management in Austin and first Undercover Boss Larry O’Donnell was the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Since 2015, O’Donnell has been providing business strategy consulting services. In 2019, O’Donnell formed Servant Ministries Foundation to provide leadership training, mentoring and coaching through books, consulting and speaking engagements.

The Young Insurance Professionals hosted a reception with cocktails and pizza in honor of I-Day exhibitors in the Rose Garden Room of the Marriott Westchase on Feb. 22.