Risk Manager Spotlight: Cindy Steed

It’s not unusual for the local government employee to don more than one hat. As Risk Manager and Purchasing and Utilities Supervisor for the City of Staunton, Cindy Steed has learned more about risk management through her career with the city than in her 20 years as an auditor for the federal government.

Now, Steed is set to retire from her position at the City of Staunton after 22 years.

Steed began working for the city in 1994 as a purchasing and utilities supervisor. However, when the individual responsible for risk management retired, that responsibility was moved to Cindy.

“I had never worked in risk management before,” said Steed. During her first year, most of the work was reactive rather than proactive. “Someone would have an accident and I would figure out how to file the claim.”

However, after the city placed their coverage with VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP), Cindy began to understand more about how risk management works.

“At the time, the VMLIP Director of Member Services, Greg Dickie, knew how blindsided I was – and he would call me periodically to make sure I was doing okay,” said Steed.

She soon started working to align their risk management practices with those outlined in VMLIP’s Risk Management Guidelines assessment.

“I love the Risk Management Guidelines!” said Steed. “They give us a benchmark to work toward every year. Otherwise it’s easy to become lax in what you are doing, but if you have the guidelines in place, you know what you have to do quarterly to ensure your people are trained. It also gives us things to talk about and work toward with our safety committee.”

The city’s safety committee was formed three years ago and now meets quarterly. At the end of each meeting, they share upcoming training opportunities and resources offered through VMLIP. They also discuss issues they want to become more proactive in addressing.

“If we’ve had recurring types of incidents or injuries, such as back injuries or auto incidents involving backing into things, we’ll work together to develop training to address those issues and work to mitigate those risks,” said Steed.

The goal is to always be proactive. For example, each year before the winter season begins, the committee distributes additional safety information and training on snowplow safety to drivers in an effort to reduce the number of incidents. As a result, the city now has relatively few snowplow claims.

The city utilizes many VMLIP resources for their training, including videos through the VMLIP Multimedia Library, courses through the VMLIP Online University, webinars, presentations, and consulting services from VMLIP staff.

“Whenever I have a safety or claims question I will contact Pete Strickler or Tiffany Clouse,” said Steed. “They always answer quickly and Pete has come out to do safety inspections for us.”

Steed’s advice for other local government employees suddenly tasked with risk management responsibilities?

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she says. “Attend as many of the conferences and training sessions as you can – you need to dig in and learn about what VMLIP has to offer and learn about risk management as much as you can.”

After she retires, Steed hopes to visit her son in California more frequently, as well as spend more time with her father, who turns 90 this year.“I really want the time and opportunity to spend more time with family,” she said.