Al Ater back in Louisiana politics

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 8, 2010

FERRIDAY — Starting Monday, Al Ater is back in Louisiana politics.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has appointed Ater to serve as chief deputy Commissioner of Insurance, a position he served in from July 2004 to March 2005 under Commissioner Robert Wooley.

Ater left the position in 2005 to become First Assistant Secretary of State, and he was appointed Secretary of State in July 2005 following the resignation and death of Fox McKeithen. Ater served as Secretary of State until November 2006.

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“This is just returning to what I was going to do to start with,” Ater said.

The position entails helping manage day-to-day operations, the department’s budget and issues that arise from the regulation of insurance, Ater said.

Ater said he and Donelon — who is a former state representative — became friends when Ater served in the state legislature from 1984 to 1992.

“Whatever the commissioner feels is on the agenda, (I) am basically the No. 2 person at the agency,” he said. “We have a good friendship and have good understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Ater said he hadn’t had plans to return to state government when he left the secretary of state’s office, where he led the merge of the Department of State and the Department of Elections.

“I have never been a career politician,” he said. “I have always been goal oriented. If there was something I felt I could do or help out, I would do it.”

“I never really saw myself as somebody who would stay for 40 years and then retire.”

In the time between his stints in political offices, Ater has been a businessman and a farmer.

In a news release from the Insurance Commissioner’s office, Donelon said Ater was a huge asset to the department, and that his experience and understanding of state government will be invaluable.

Ater, a Ferriday native, was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in 2009.