Ronald F. Carlson enjoyed a long and successful career in insurance, designing and overseeing programs for the biotechnology and chemical industries, to name a few. But he particularly enjoyed working with the pool service trade, helping one prominent association achieve new levels of growth.
Carlson, longtime insurance broker to the United Pool Association, passed away Feb. 12, 2016. He was 65.
After graduating from Marietta College in Ohio, Carlson got his start with Aetna Life & Casualty Insurance Co. The corporation transferred him to Southern California — and Carlson welcomed the change of scenery. As he once put it: “There are no palm trees in Ohio.”
He eventually launched his own agency, which was later acquired by USI, a nationwide brokerage. Carlson stayed on as USI’s senior vice president, serving in its Los Angeles branch for more than 20 years.
It was at USI where he accepted the unique challenge of administering the coverage of some 1,000 pool service professionals. Prior to purchasing Carlson’s agency, USI had acquired the firm that developed the United Pool Association’s insurance program. USI assigned a series of brokers to the account, but few were up to the task. (UPA President Steve Homer admits that service techs can be tough customers.) Carlson, however, proved more than capable, becoming UPA’s steadfast account executive in 2000.
“Ron was a total professional. He understood what we needed in a broker and delivered it in aces,” Homer said. “We couldn’t have been happier with Ron, at least not me.”
Carlson is credited as the driving force behind UPA’s recent growth spurt. The 28-year-old organization had never done much in the way of a membership drive before. Its roster took a hit during the recession, when many service pros exited the industry, and it remained stagnant for years after. Carlson convinced UPA officials that they needed to grow if they wanted a more secure policy. The group agreed, but there was a problem: They didn’t have any money for marketing.
So Carlson arranged for the association’s underwriter, Fireman’s Fund (now Allianz), to put up the money for recruitment efforts, allowing the group to launch a new website and purchase booth space at trade shows.
Today, UPA has about 1,900 members. Homer estimates that’s a 25 percent uptick since 2008.
Even in semiretirement, Carlson remained active with the association — not because he had to, but because he wanted to, Homer said. Carlson spoke at chapter meetings throughout Southern California, attended trade shows nationwide and wrote a column called “Carlson’s Corner” in UPA’s quarterly newsletter.
He’ll be remembered for always having a cheerful demeanor and infectious laugh. And he was unflappable in the face of confrontation.
“Any big group is pretty unruly, but Ron had some ability to come in and talk and get his point across,” said Clint Combs, owner of Technical Pool Repair in Ontario, Calif. “He was working for our benefit and he was able to convince us of that, and that’s not always easy to do.”
A dedicated family man, Carlson is survived by Alison, his wife of nearly 41 years, and his two children, Matt and Kelli.