BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Polk County Farm Bureau Insurance Agency provides personal lines of insurance for homes, auto, boat, farms, equipment, health through Blue Cross/Blue Shield, life insurance, and annuities for approximately 3,125 members in Polk County. They also provide limited banking services including loans, CD’s, checking, money market accounts, business lines of credit, and credit cards.
The agency is headed by Tony Hooper who became the agency manager May 1 of this year, and while he is proud of their many products and their competitive rates, it’s the heart and experience of his agents and support staff that he believes differentiates his agency from the others.
In a business where experience and accessibility makes all the difference, the agency’s three agents have a combined experience of 74 years, Tony Hooper, 28 years; Andy Brown, 27 years; and Mitch Sikes, 19 years. The agency also has two local adjusters, that Hooper explains, expedites processing claims for members. One adjuster, Shane Frost, has been with Farm Bureau for 14 years and has received numerous district and state awards. Jake Bunch is the other adjuster who has been with the agency for two years. The glue that keeps it all together is the agency’s three administrative assistants: Janice Wagner, Alicia House, and Janet Dean. Hooper explained that House is receiving additional training to become a Farm Bureau Customer Service Representative. Hooper said that they plan to add two additional agents in 2018.
All the agents are active in various parts of the community. “Andy has served on the Mena City Council for years and is very involved in city business. He’s also the Sunday School Director at Salem [Baptist Church]. Mitch is real involved with the youth sports at Mena and his church at Mountain Fork.” Tony explained that he serves as the men’s pastor at Penuel Church in Hatfield.
As it has with so many businesses and industries, technology has been the biggest change Tony has seen through his years in the insurance business. Tony explained that members are able to get quotes, pay bills, and file claims, all online.
Community involvement is also greatly valued at Farm Bureau. Tony said his agency spends between $5,000 to $6,000 each year at the county fair livestock show, they also award five $600 scholarships to county graduating seniors. There is a Farm Bureau Women’s Committee that is led by Lauren Frost, Deedee Alston, Rita Keener, Carol Fields, and Dotsie Webb. The agency sponsors the Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year that recognizes an outstanding local farm family, who then has the opportunity to compete at the district and state levels.
Farm Bureau is also active on the federal level with the Farm Bureau Federation. “They are the big boys in agriculture,” Tony explained, adding that they have a paid staff of lobbyists, who, year round advocate to protect private land rights, water quality, and other issues important to rural farming and rural families.
Locally, Farm Bureau is governed by its 15 member board: Allen Stewart – President, Ronney Fields – V.P., Terry Keener – Secretary, Greg Hunter , Terry Terrell , James Watkins, Duane Webb, Rodney Bowen, Mitchell Tidwell, Steve Barney, Farrell Cole, Bill Hoek , Dennis Philpot , David Head, and Lucas Alston.
Of course, products and rates are very important but Tony knows that at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. “Over the years, we’ve built relationships with our clients that don’t go away very often. When mommas and daddies have children and those children get big enough to start driving, we’ll end up writing them, too. It’s kind of a legacy.”