Kenneth W. Simpson
By FRED W. WRIGHT Jr.
After 36 years in the Army, Kenneth W. Simpson had to make some adjustments to civilian life, first in San Antonio, Texas, and now in Tampa.
As vice president and general manager of the Southeast region for USAA, a financial services company that caters to the military, his staffers don't have to snap a salute when he walks by. And when he looks out of his Tampa Palms office window, he doesn't see the wandering wildlife of Alaska, his last Army post, though he occasionally sees a swimming alligator.
But the adjustment wasn't too difficult. "Because I was working with the military community (in the Army), I took the uniform off but maintained the relationships I had," he said. "I used my experience and background with the reserves and the enlisted."
Simpson retired from the military in 1998 as a major general. He went to work for USAA and relocated from Anchorage to San Antonio. When USAA restructured, Simpson was promoted to vice president and general manager and is relocating to Tampa.
He is responsible for more than 1,700 employees in the eight-state Southeast region, one of four in the company's property and casualty division. His duties include the "integration of all the business functions in this regional office -- human resources, facilities, all the support apparatus that is here to take care of our employees," he said.
USAA is a member association founded in 1922 to provide insurance coverage to members of the military. Today, USAA offers its 5-million members a wide range of insurance, banking and investment products and services. The company's headquarters is in San Antonio with offices throughout the United States and in Europe. USAA owns or manages assets of $66-billion.
The Southeast region insures approximately 700,000 vehicles, he said, and has approximately 500,000 homeowners policies.
Simpson enlisted in the California National Guard right out of high school, he said. "I was a kid looking for adventure." He went into active duty in 1962 and has served at various posts in the United States as well as in Vietnam, Cuba and Germany. After nearly five years as an enlisted man, he went to the Army's officer's candidate school.
Simpson has held various commands, from being commanding general of the Army Recruiting Command to commandant of the Sergeant Majors Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas. His last assignment was commanding general of the Army in Alaska.
He said he knew he wanted to make the Army a career after his first tour of duty. "Usually, when you re-enlist, you have some vision beyond three more years," he said. While in the military, Simpson earned a bachelor's degree in business from California State University in 1972 and a master's degree in 1976 in management from Central Michigan University.
Simpson said that at 59, he is far from being ready to retire. "We all have to retire eventually," he said. "I just wasn't ready to get into an RV and start driving around the country. I don't know if I could handle that, although I do have an RV."
Simpson and his wife, Karen, will be looking for a home in Tampa, he said. They have two grown children and four grandchildren, all in the Washington area.
Simpson is on the board of governors of the USO World Headquarters in Washington, which is a coordinating body for overseas programs.
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