The North Bay’s leaders in life, disability and health insurance were selected based on the company’s inclusion in the Business Journal Book of Lists. The firms were asked to submit names of individuals highlighted here for their life, disability and health coverages. (Listed alphabetically)


Deborah Bezona

D. Bezona & Company,50 Old Courthouse Square, Ste. 310,Santa Rosa 95404, 707-576-1920,www.dbezona.com

D. Bezona & Company owner and President Deborah Bezona is the founding member and past president of the North Bay’s largest association of health benefits experts, the North Coast Association of Health Underwriters.

She has more than 30 years experience in the employee benefits field and launched her own business in 1989. Ms. Bezona earned her registered underwriter designation in 1992 and her benefits consultant designation two years later. She is also a former chair of the health care committee and board member for the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, and she served on the state board for the California Association of Health Underwriters.

Additionally, she is a past president of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.


Terry DeDecker

Vantreo Insurance Brokerage, 100 Stony Point Road, Ste. 160, Santa Rosa 95401,  707-546-2300, www.vantreo.com

Vantreo Insurance employee benefits account executive and former small business owner Terry DeDecker joined the burgeoning brokerage in 2007 with more than 20 years experience in the industry.

Earning her bachelor’s and graduate degrees in geology, the New York-native spent a few years in a career related to her studies before joining Aetna as a marketing representative in individual and group health coverage. She went on to open her own insurance agency in Colorado, which she operated for seven years.

Ms. DeDecker holds a chartered life underwriter and registered health underwriter designation. She is a former Rotary International member of 10 years.

Vantreo was formed from the 2007 division of Matsen Insurance. The new brokerage has grown by more than 40 percent as a whole since then and increased its life, disability and health insurance premium volume by $12 million last year.

.Mark Fess

George Petersen Insurance Agency, 627 College Ave., Santa Rosa 95404, 707-525-2735, www.geopetersen.com

Mark Fess joined George Petersen Insurance Agency in October 2006, following a 27-year stint with ABD Insurance and Financial Services, which was later acquired by Wells Fargo. During his time with ABD, he worked as the executive vice president responsible for the employee benefits division. He is currently a vice president and partner leading the George Petersen employee benefits department.

In total, Mr. Fess has about 33 years experience in benefits, with special expertise in the financial areas of life, disability and retirement. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College and California State University, Sacramento, where he earned his bachelor’s. He is a past member of the Million Dollar Round Table and a past board member of YMCA.

George Petersen was founded in 1935 and is the ninth-largest life, disability and health insurer in the North Bay.


John Fradelizio

Wells Fargo Insurance Services—North Bay & San Francisco, 1039-A N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma 94954, 707-773-1875, www.cybersure.com

Now the fifth-largest broker in the nation, Wells Fargo inched ahead to take the top spot on the Business Journal’s life, disability and health insurance ranking this year, reporting more than $17.8 million income commission and $250 million in premium volume in the North Bay.

The company has rapidly expanded its insurance footprint in Northern California during the last two years, following the acquisition of ABD Insurance and Financial Services. The business has acquired at least five local brokerages in that time frame.

John Fradelizio joined ABD as vice president and team leader in 2002 and stayed on with the company through the Wells Fargo transition. He was named managing director of the employee benefits department for the North Bay and San Francisco region in 2008.

Mr. Fradelizio graduated from the University of San Francisco, cum laude, with a bachelor’s in government and a juris doctorate. He is a past president of the Northern California Employee Benefit Council, and he has served on advisory boards with numerous carriers including Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Kaiser, Aetna, Health Net, United HealthCare and Delta Dental.

“The rewarding part of the business for me is the opportunity to assist our loyal customer base in solving their employee benefits and human resources challenges, while working on a daily basis with talented co-workers dedicated to delivering superior customer service,” he said.

“This is what motivates me to get up and go to work every morning with an energized focus.”

In his spare time, he volunteers with the Leukemia Society, Hospice of Marin and the Meadow Club.


Scott Klohe

Klohe Insurance Group, 4735 Old Redwood Highway, Ste. B, Santa Rosa 95403,  707-571-8661, www.klohe.com

From a young shoe entrepreneur to seasoned insurance expert, family-man Scott Klohe said his agency is in the business of helping people.

“I would definitely say we are a different breed of broker. A lot of our counterparts consider themselves sales organizations. That just isn’t us,” said the Klohe Insurance Group founder.

Born in Ohio as one of six siblings in an Air Force family, Mr. Klohe paved an admittedly unusual path into insurance. As a 28-year-old in 1975, the young father moved to the North Bay with his family and opened a successful shoe enterprise in Terra Linda.  But tragedy struck unexpectedly when he was involved in a severe car accident that led to nearly four months of hospitalization. The incident caused Mr. Klohe to re-evaluate his career, and he spent his weeks of immobility studying life insurance. Once recovered, he sold the shoe business and launched Klohe insurance about 18 months later.

Asked of his life’s greatest accomplishments, Mr. Klohe said he considers his children and five grandchildren his most important priorities. He participates in numerous community organizations and events, including those related to ecology, farming and politics.


Thomas Henry

RealCare Insurance Marketing, 19310 Sonoma Highway, Ste. A, Sonoma 95476, 800-939-8088,  www.realcare.biz

Formerly a practicing attorney in Santa Rosa, RealCare Insurance Marketing President Thomas Henry found his passion in insurance more than 25 years ago. He made the transition after working as a legal consultant for a life insurance brokerage, going on to earn his broker license and purchase two group health insurance practices.

In 1987, the Albany, Ga.-native split with his partner, officially creating RealCare Insurance. Mr. Henry earned his bachelor’s in international business from San Francisco State University in 1972 and his juris doctorate from the University of the Pacific. About 96 percent of RealCare’s profit volume comes from health insurance and about 4 percent is split between life and disability. The company is the sixth-largest brokerage in health benefits in the North Bay.

Mr. Henry is a board member, treasurer and former two-term president of the North Coast Association of Health Underwriters.

He served in the U.S. Air Force as a Russian linguist during the Vietnam conflict.


David Hodges

Hodges Insurance Services Inc., 416 Aviation Blvd., Ste. E, Santa Rosa 95403, 800-939-8088,  www.hr-ins.com

Rooted in the unlikely work experience of acting, Hodges Insurance Services founder David Hodges first entered the insurance field more than 24 years ago. Formerly Hodges & Russell, the primarily group benefits brokerage is the 10th-largest in the category in the North Bay.

The 2008-2009 diamond-certified business took in about $1.2 million in commission income last year and wrote about $33.5 million in premium volume. Mr. Hodges brought in partner Chuck Russell in 1993, but the two separated offices in August 2008. Following the split, Mr. Hodges added two producers and launched a new Web site, while Mr. Russell opened his own specialty practice with his daughter.

Mr. Hodges graduated from Santa Rosa Junior College in 1976 with an associate degree in theater arts.


Mick Menendez

Pacific Advisors Inc., 404 Mendocino Ave., Ste. 200, Santa Rosa 95401, 707-578-0675, www.pacificadvisors.com

Pacific Advisors Inc. Senior Partner Mick Menendez commenced his more than 30 years of experience in insurance just after college, starting with Mutual of New York in the Bay Area in 1972.

“I majored in communication in college and when I graduated I looked around at TV and radio, but the only opportunities were in Ohio and Nebraska and elsewhere, and I didn’t want to leave the Bay Area,” he said. Mr. Menendez earned his bachelor’s from San Francisco State.

After leaving Mutual of New York in 1990, he began work as a general agent for the Guardian Life Insurance Co., opening the company’s first North Bay office. In 2004, Guardian merged with Pacific Advisors and Mr. Menendez stayed on as a senior partner. The Santa Rosa branch focuses primarily on executive benefits, securities and estate planning. The company reported $2.2 million in commission income from health, disability and health insurance last year and about $17.5 million in premium volume.

Mr. Menendez served as trustee, communications officer and political action committee chairman for the California chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and he is a Sonoma County Alliance executive committee member and former two-term president. He is a board member and former president for the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, and he works with the Santa Rosa Planning Commission.


Michael Michalski

Gallagher BPI, A Division of Gallagher Benefit Services Inc. , 101 Larkspur Landing Circle, Ste. 120, Larkspur 94939, 415-461-8383, www.gallagherbenefits.com

With insurance commission income of about $16 million, Larkspur-based Gallagher BPI is the North Bay’s second-largest life, disability and health insurance brokerage. Founded as Benefits Planning & Insurance Agency in 1978, the business became a division of Gallagher Benefit Services Inc. when it was acquired in 2003.

Michael Michalski serves as area president of the branch, which reported more than $400 million in premium volume last year. Of that, about 90 percent was in health benefits, 6 percent was life and 4 percent in disability. A majority of its clients purchase group or employee coverage.

Mr. Michalski has more than 28 years experience in the insurance industry and took on his current post when his consultancy Optimum Benefits merged with BPI in 1989. He worked previously as an account executive with Aetna Life and Casualty. He earned his bachelor’s in business administration from St. Mary’s College of California.


Mike Parr

NorthWest Insurance Agency, 418 B St., Ste. G,  Santa Rosa 95401, 707-573-1300, www.nwinsure.com

NorthWest Insurance Agency agent Mike Parr was recruited last fall to lead the company’s benefits division. He earned his bachelor’s in industrial and organizational psychology from St. Mary’s College and quickly began work in sales and support for the Oracle Corps.

Following a 20-year career with the company, Mr. Parr left in 2002 to become an employee benefits insurance agent for an East Coast brokerage. He quickly distinguished his talent in the industry, constantly exceeding sales goals and garnering multiple large accounts.

While working with the New England company, his sales exceeded goals for six consecutive years, and he averaged more than 50 new clients a year. He is currently a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters, the North Coast Association of Health Underwriters and the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

NorthWest, originally dubbed NorCoast Insurance, was founded in Gualala in 1978. The business grew quickly adding two new offices within its first five years, and Chairman Michael Sullivan now operates 10 offices in Northern California and lower Oregon. The company employs about 130 people and offers property casualty coverage in addition to life, disability and health.


Linda Reid

[caption id="attachment_15745" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Cathy Loveland Lemay, Dennis William Loveland, Mark Ferrere and Linda Reid"][/caption]

Reid Loveland Insurance, 4000 Montgomery Drive, Ste. G,  Santa Rosa 95405, 707-522-6320

As a partnership of mother, children and son-in-law, Reid Loveland Insurance in Santa Rosa is truly a family business. The team led by mother Linda Reid encompasses more than 58 years of collective experience in insurance and includes daughter Cathy Loveland Lemay, son Dennis William Loveland and son-in-law Mark Ferrere.

The business launched in 1996 is now within the top 20 life, disability and health writers in the North Bay, offering products with more than 50 carriers. Ms. Reid began insurance work in 1981. She obtained a charter life underwriting degree, and she is a past associate director of the United Way of the North Bay. She is a regular trainer with the national Life Underwriters Training Council, and she is a former president of the Life Underwriters Association. Ms. Reid also earned a double bachelor’s from Sonoma State University in art and art history.

In her spare time, she is an author and painter.

.Shane Rogers

Rogers & Young Insurance Services, 800 Edgewood Place,  Windsor 95492, 707-687-2621, www.rogers-young.com

Rogers & Young Employee Benefits Adviser Shane Rogers joined his father’s Windsor-based agency in 2006 following a successful career as a financial adviser. A 35-year insurance veteran, Steve Rogers launched the agency in 1988 and partnered with co-principal, Jeff Young, in 1993.

Shane Rogers worked in finance with Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney for a total of seven years following college. He earned his bachelor’s in finance from San Diego State University, and he is a member of the Sonoma County Alliance and PASCO-HR.

“I have a tremendous support team behind me, and I would not be where I am without their help,” he said. His division includes benefits Account Manager Judy O’Brien and Marketing Analyst Judi Pietrelli.

.Delores Schoffman

KBR Insurance & Financial Services Inc., 700 Larkspur Landing Circle, Ste. 240,  Larkspur 94939,  415-927-6999,  www.kbrfinancial.com

Delores Schoffman manages KBR Insurance & Financial Services’ individual insurance department, which ranks within the top 15 life, disability and health insurance brokerages in the North Bay. KBR reported income commissions of about $1 million last year and a premium volume of about $30 million. About 60 percent of the company’s business is comprised of life and long-term care coverage for individuals. Ms. Schoffman boasts more than 10 years experience selling and servicing policies and 20 years working in client services and in management. She’s lived in the Bay Area for the last 24 years, and she is a previous board member of three years of the Marin County chapter of Amigos de Las Americas, an international volunteer organization.

.Jim Settles

Woodruff-Sawyer & Company, 88 Rowland Way, Ste. 180,  Novato 94945, 415-878-2460, www.wsandco.com

Bay Area-native Jim Settles moved to Woodruff-Sawyer & Company last year following the acquisition of ABD Insurance by Wells Fargo, where he worked for 13 years and served as vice president of employee benefits.

Mr. Settles serves as vice president and employee benefits practice leader for Woodruff, which was ranked the fourth-largest disability, health and life brokerage in the area last year. The company was founded in 1918 and opened its Novato office in 2008. The company has grown substantially during its time in the North Bay, reporting commission income of about $4.1 million and premiums of about $60 million.

Mr. Settles earned his bachelor’s in finance from California State University, Sacramento and started his insurance career with W. M. Mercer, later moving to Mutual of New York. He currently serves on several carrier advisory councils including with Principal Financial, Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross and others. Collectively, he boasts more than 24 years designing health and welfare programs and has elevated expertise working with the winery, hospitality, professional services, manufacturing and technology industries. He is a certified employee benefits specialist.

In his spare time, he coaches football at Casa Grande High School, and he is a former president and athletic director for Petaluma Panthers Football.

.Jordan Shields

United Benefit Advisors, 15 Brooke Drive,  Novato 94947, 415-878-0260, www.jordanshields.com

Jordan Shields is owner of three corporations including the fifth-largest life, disability and health insurance brokerage United Benefit Advisors. He serves as president of the primarily employer and group health benefits brokerage and sits on the UBA board. The business reported 2008 commission income of $3.4 million and a premium volume of about $59 million in the same year.

The native New Yorker launched the Novato agency in 1985 but has worked in the insurance business for the past 30 years, beginning his career as a secretary then account manager for another brokerage.

Mr. Shields earned his bachelor’s in history from Colgate University, and he is a past chair of the Golden Gate Health Underwriters and the California Association of Healthcare Internal Auditors. He also served a term as chair of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Underwriters, and he is an honorary board member to of Brothers/Big Sisters of the North Bay and the North Bay Children’s Center.

.Robert Shirrell

Shirrell Consulting Services Inc., 3630 Montgomery Drive,  Santa Rosa 95405, 707-544-1804, www.shirrell.members.sonic.net

Possibly one of the most veteran benefits specialists in the North Bay, Robert Shirrell is responsible for some of the largest and most significant health plan transactions in Sonoma County.

Following the founding of his Santa Rosa business close to 60 years ago, the Shirrell Consulting Services president wrote the first group benefits plan for the county of Sonoma and the city of Santa Rosa in 1957 and led the county in developing a self-insurance program in 1975. Since, he has created other self-insurance accounts for the cities of Petaluma, Cloverdale, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, Lakeport, Ft. Bragg and Sebastopol, as well as Santa Rosa City Schools, Marin General Hospital, Lake County Schools and others.

The consultancy conducted the feasibility study and actuarial work that garnered federal and state qualification for the launch of Health Plan of the Redwoods in 1980. Mr. Shirrell also led the preparation of actuarial assumptions for the Sonoma-Lake-Mendocino region’s Medi-Cal program. He served several years as chairman of the actuarial task force created by the Public Employees Retirement Division of the State of California.

Shirrell clients range from the federal government to medical foundations in 21 counties across California. The agency is also considered one of the leading pioneers in self-insurance; Mr. Shirrell even authored a how-to handbook on the topic, which was published by the Institute for Local Government on Self-Insurance.

.Gary Sitzmann

Sitzmann, Morris & Lavis Inc., 2455 Bennett Valley Road, Ste. B205,  Santa Rosa 95404,  707-577-8300, www.smlinc.com

Sitzmann, Morris & Lavis Inc. founder and CEO Gary Sitzman has more than four decades in the business and has established himself as a nationally recognized expert in financial planning and insurance. He has filled numerous professional association leadership roles, including with the Top of the Table, Million Dollar Round Table and the California Association of Underwriters. He is also a past board member of the Advanced Association for Life Underwriting and a past chairman of the AALU Business Insurance & Estate Planning Committee.

Born in New York, the grandfather of four and father of two launched the Santa Rosa financial and insurance company in 1965. The business now employs 84 and is the eighth-largest life, disability and health insurance brokerage in the North Bay. The company took in $1.3 million in commission income in 2008 and wrote close to $26 million in premiums almost entirely in group health coverage.

In 1999, he served a year on the board of directors for M Financial Holdings, where he was also chairman of the program development committee. In the community, he’s worked as a trustee of the University of California Foundation and as a board member of the George Mark House, a hospice for terminally ill children. He founded Oakland Youth Works, and he’s held various positions with Bay Area theater and arts organizations.

He earned a charter life underwriter designation from The American College and his bachelor’s from Armstrong College.

He is a former U.S. Army water skiing champion, and he loves to travel, play golf, boat and fly his plane. He is candidly known as the “silver fox” among friends and family.

.Daniel Toney

Trademark Capital Services, 101 Larkspur Landing Circle, Ste. 116, Larkspur 94939, 415-461-4427, www.tcs-insurance.com

Founded as a small, individual insurance practice, owner and CEO Daniel Toney has developed Trademark Capital Services into the region’s third-largest dealer of multiple-life programs. The business reported 2008 commission income of about $4.6 million and a premium volume of about $20 million, dealing about half in life and a little less than half in disability. About 5 percent of its business comes from long-term care coverage.

Mr. Toney is a member of the California Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors as well as the Marin County Chapter of the Chartered Financial Consultants and the Marin County Chapter of the Chartered Life Underwriters.

He graduated from California State University at San Jose with a degree in business administration, and he is the founding director of the Koret Family House, a residential facility for families with children receiving cancer treatment at UCSF.

In his spare time he enjoys golf, jogging and collecting wines. He and his wife, Kathleen, have three children.


Scott Tree and Gary Millstein

Benefits Health Insurance, 540 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa,  95401,  707-579-4279,  www.benefitshealth.com

Founded by Gary Millstein, Benefits Health Insurance brought on Scott Tree as a partner in 1988. The agency is listed as the 16th-largest life, disability and health insurer in the North Bay, reporting about $739,000 in commission income last year and more than $5.1 million in premium volume.

Mr. Tree holds degrees from San Fernando Valley State College and City College of San Francisco.

.Fred Waxler

Costello & Sons, 1752 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael 94901, 415-257-2100, www.costelloandsons.com

Music business CEO turned insurance sales specialist Fred Waxler is the most recent recruit to San Rafael-based Costello & Sons, returning to the work force from retirement in August. The Washington D.C.-native spent much of his career as a music business executive and engineer but shifted to insurance in 1987. He was the founder and CEO of Bananas at Large Music, which he sold in 1984, going on to own Marin Sound Recorders for three years.

“I was not initially really drawn to insurance, it was just something I fell into after leaving the music business, but it turned out I actually really liked it. I like the idea of being of service to people, and it is often challenging, especially in the current environment,” he said.

Mr. Waxler worked as an insurance salesman and financial adviser for EquitableLife/Axa Advisors in San Rafael for 16 years before retiring. He attended Oregon State University, City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State College, and he is a former member of the Mission of San Rafael Club and charter member of the Business Executives Association of Marin.

St. Helena Insurance Associates, ranked No. 17 in the North Bay and located at 1361 Main St., St. Helena was not included in this section because officials did not submit biographical information for this section before press time.