HomeInsuranceGaarder plans flexible retirement and local living | Gazette-tribune

Gaarder plans flexible retirement and local living | Gazette-tribune

SIBLEY—A leadership transition aims to maintain the long-standing level of service from the Farmers Mutual Insurance Association of Osceola County.

Manager and secretary Scott Gaarder has reduced his workload at FMIA and Gaarder Insurance Agency as he gradually adjusts to retirement. Gaarder started as the assistant manager at the Sibley businesses in May of 1977.

The 1969 Sibley High School graduate attended Worthington Junior College in Minnesota before completing his degree in 1974 in business administration with an insurance major at Mankato State University in Minnesota.

He interned for one college quarter at Tri-State Mutual Insurance in Luverne, MN, where he was hired following his graduation from MSU. Gaarder worked there for three years before returning to Sibley in 1976, following the advice of his father, Hoyt, to work for another company.

History of service

Insurance offerings through FMIA’s predecessor, however, date back to 1889 as early Osceola County settlers sought to protect the property they’d worked so hard to obtain.

Twenty-four individuals met in September that year at the Osceola County courthouse in Sibley to create the Farmers Mutual Fire and Lightning Insurance Association, with the purpose of providing insurance to farmers based on the lifestyle’s specific needs.

The total insurance volume pledged on Oct. 19, 1889 was $16,580. Fewer than 50 farmers constituted the early membership with the original board and witness Bill Thomas, the clerk of district court.

By the time the company reached the 50-year mark in 1939, yearly growth resulted in more than $6,000,000 worth of insurance in force.

The Gaarder family’s involvement began in 1962 when Hoyt came to Sibley to be the secretary, manager and treasurer of the FMIA firm after about five years with the Grinnell Mutual Insurance Company.

“While at Grinnell, he developed one thing that is used by almost all insurance companies, and that’s the farm personal property blanket,” Gaarder said.

This type of coverage provides a total limit for the covered farm personal property such as grain, livestock, supplies and machinery rather than a set amount for each separate item through scheduled coverage, and usually at a lower rate.

Hoyt established Gaarder Insurance Agency the same year after purchasing the insurance agency of J.H. Nicoll.

By 1982, Gaarder handled most of the business for the Gaarder Insurance part of the office, but Hoyt remained involved in insurance matters until 2004.

The Gaarders’ main goals were to protect clients from big losses and write policies properly to prevent financial disasters.

Initially, the business functioned out of the homes of members. Gaarder remembers a site at 843 Third Ave. just north of the former First National Bank building during the 1960s. The Gaarders first occupied the building located at 726 Fourth Ave. in the fall of 1976.


Costs often factor into decisions about insurance even when viewed as a necessity.

As the value of property or risk of liability increases, clients need to consider the possible outcome and what they might have to spend should they experience a major disaster without coverage.

Gaarder said he’s seen a major change in the insurance industry in just the past few years as property valuations and material costs have skyrocketed, along with greater instability in reinsurance costs and availability.

The number of perils covered also grew from lightning, fire and wind in 1889 to a seemingly infinite amount in recent policies.

Gaarder Insurance is the agency that sells the insurance for different companies.

The Farmers Mutual side provides rate setting, coverage information, purchase of reinsurance, underwriting, adjusting services and claim oversight to serve the needs of members in Osceola and surrounding counties. Gaarder noted that Sioux County has a large policyholder base through the Sibley office.

Farmers Mutual presidents that Gaarder worked with include Harry Ernst, Tony Strouth, Don Bremer and Leroy Eggink.

Gaarder plans to stay on the board as a director and noted a positive experience working with board members over the years.

Tomas Hansmann has moved into the role Gaarder held since 1993 as secretary, manager and treasurer of FMIA and will be supported by office staff members Stacy Reinke and Michelle Johnson. Gaarder will continue to complete inspections for the short term.

FMIA of Osceola County now serves over 1,600 policyholders and has a volume of $618,083,896 of risk in force. The association has shown a steady growth in insurance volume, membership and cash reserve.

Updated policies offered by the association can be tailored with broader coverage at lower rates than most companies. These advantages are due to the loyalty and cooperation of the policyholders and to the careful management by past and present officers and directors.

Moving forward

“I’ve always appreciated the policyholders’ support and being able to visit with them,” Gaarder said. “Most of them understand that they need to insure to proper values.”

No specific retirement plans fill Gaarder’s schedule for now. Except, supporting his community — as has always been an important part of his life.

He served as a member of the Sibley Rotary, a volunteer firefighter for 18 years, on the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church council and on the Sibley Chamber of Commerce board.

“I’ve always had the viewpoint I live in town, my business is in town, I buy locally,” Gaarder said.

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