People

Our employees are a family who care for one another and our members. Each is dedicated to serving the risk management needs of our members and treating them with the care they deserve.

John Evans
Tom Montgomery
Jeff Mathis
Chris Stites
Tom Stanley
Joan Peace
Kathy Kinard
Laura Huff
Mark Bilyeu
Paul Mangrum
Diane Gruenewald
John Evans

John Evans

President

John has been serving the risk management needs of local governments in some form or fashion since 1975. He founded NGU in 1999 after an accomplished 15-year career at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., where he held several leadership positions and was decorated with numerous achievement awards for producing and product innovation, including a banner year in 1997 when he was honored as the #1 producer in the entire nation. Maybe this success is why some of John’s competitors have cause for concern, we’re not sure. But his customers and employees sure seem to love and respect him and that’s what’s important to him. John is responsible for creating a culture at NGU where everybody loves to work here. They really do and it’s an uncommon thing to see. 

John also has a history of serving in the public sector, having been elected as mayor of Clinton, Arkansas, at the age of 21, a position he held from 1975-1978, then as councilman for the City of North Little Rock from 1985-1989. John also ran for the Arkansas state legislature in 1990. This public service gives him the unique perspective that helps him understand the public sector and government entities unlike most. 

“I want each of my clients and employees to get the absolute best there is to offer and know exactly what to expect,” says John. “I want them to feel comfortable in their relationship with me and this company and know that their decision to work with NGU is the best decision they have ever made. I want them to know that I am always here when they need help. I love to see someone walk into my office or life with a look of despair and see them leave with a smile on their face, motivated to tackle the world.” 

Not shy about his beliefs in the proper role of government and personal responsibility, John uses his time, influence, and resources to affect the political process at the local, state, and federal level. He regularly supports candidates and causes that share his belief in limited government and individual liberties. When John is not working, he enjoys quiet time alone for introspection and self-evaluation, which he does in many ways like riding a lawnmower or working with any piece of machinery that doesn’t talk back to him. You might also find him sitting on a backhoe digging tree stumps or bush hogging on his farm, woodworking, rebuilding an engine for a friend’s car or welding together a boat dock that he designed and built from scratch. We know it’s weird that this kind of stuff is fun and relaxing to him, but it is. 

John was born and raised in Clinton, Arkansas, where his father was a state trooper, and his grandfather was a grass and cattle farmer. He gained a healthy respect for law and order from his father, but he spent most of his free time with his grandfather learning on the farm. John came to Tennessee in 1994 after the pool program he started for the state’s schools began to grow so much, he needed to be here to oversee its operations and growth. And he’s loved it here ever since. 

Connect With John: 
jevans@ngutn.com 
p: 615.822.5454 ext. 107 
f: 615.824.1980 

Tom Montgomery

Tom Montgomery

V.P. of Operations

Tom Montgomery is the Vice President of Operations at NGU Risk Management and Safety Engineering & Claims Management, where he oversees the provision of premier claims and loss control services. With a profound 42 years of insurance experience, Tom’s career is marked by a deep-seated expertise in claims, management, and client relations. His professional journey commenced as a claims adjuster, evolving through supervisory and middle management positions, where he has been instrumental in fraud detection and managing major property losses. Under his leadership, sales and marketing efforts for both new business and renewals have flourished, reflecting his comprehensive oversight and strategic acumen. 

Armed with a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, Tom’s academic credentials are further enhanced by esteemed industry designations such as CPCU and AIC. He is fervently committed to ensuring policyholders and members receive the utmost level of service and attention, a commitment that has cemented his status as a trusted advisor and problem-solver. Renowned for his ‘get things done’ attitude, he fosters a supportive work environment that motivates his staff to excel and advance in their careers. Outside the office, Tom’s passions are as grounding as they are diverse. He cherishes time spent fishing, being with his grandchildren, traveling with his wife, and tending to his yard and small farm, embodying the balance between professional dedication and personal fulfillment.

Connect With Tom:
tmontgomery@ngutn.com
p: 615.822.5454 ext. 118
f: 615.824.1980 

Jeff Mathis

Jeff Mathis

Chief Financial Officer

Jeff has been with NGU Risk Management and Safety Engineering & Claims Management since John Evans founded the companies. He was an actuary in his prior life and actually served as the actuary for the Tennessee Risk Management Trust at one point in his career. He was also a founding partner in an actuarial consulting company. Jeff joined John at NGU pretty much from day one, fulfilling the finance function for the company.

Jeff is known for speaking multiple languages, but not like Mandarin or Portuguese. No, Jeff speaks actuary, auditing, accounting, IT systems, insurance and corporate. It’s no wonder he’s so well versed; he’s been working in the insurance industry since 1984. He has a knack for plowing through numbers and data then being able to translate that into information that someone can understand and act on.

“I love the team that we have assembled here!”, says Jeff. “It is a blast to come to work every day with these great folks.  I enjoy digging into the numbers and doing those unseen tasks that make it all work that drive most folks crazy.”

When he’s not working, Jeff will be found with his kids and grandkids participating in their activities and staying very active in leadership positions with his church as a deacon. He loves going to TPAC musicals as much as he enjoys singing in the church choir with his wife of 37 years where they both also play the handbells. Always trying to put his financial skills to good use, he is the treasurer at his church and can provide financial training if needed.. He even does tax-prep work during tax season at a tax office owned by friends at church to stay current with tax laws.

A Tennessee native, Jeff grew up in nearby Gallatin. With the exception of three years spent in Texas, he has spent his life in Middle Tennessee, including his college years spent at MTSU in Murfreesboro.

Connect With Jeff:
jmathis@ngutn.com
p: 615.822.5454 ext. 108
f: 615.824.1980 

Chris Stites

Chris Stites

Loss Control Supervisor & Safety Engineer

Chris Stites serves as the Loss Control Supervisor & Safety Engineer with an extensive background in both safety engineering and leadership roles in manufacturing. A proud native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Chris is a dedicated professional who aligns his work ethic with his deep-rooted faith. He takes his role as a father to two sons seriously, striving to embody the virtues of a good parent and friend, with a commitment to aiding others whenever possible. 

With a degree from Murray State University and a professional journey that includes seven years in manufacturing, Chris has developed an expansive skill set. His previous roles as an EHS Manager and Shift Supervisor at a Fortune 500 company have equipped him with valuable industry insights. His expertise extends through his tenure as a night shift superintendent and plant manager at a cabinet manufacturing firm, where he also applied lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma methodology. Chris’s 17-year career with Safety Engineering Consultants has been marked by his rise to team lead for safety grants and his recognized prowess as a professional speaker. His membership in the American Society of Safety Engineers and the National Safety Council further reflects his dedication to the field. 

Away from his professional responsibilities, Chris is a hands-on problem solver with a passion for automotive bodywork and general repair projects. His knack for troubleshooting and fixing the unfixable not only amazes those around him but also parallels the analytical skills required for his role in safety engineering. Chris’s multifaceted expertise and personal interests blend seamlessly to make him a valued member of his team and a respected figure in the safety community. 

Connect With Chris: 
cstites@ngutn.com 
p: (615) 826-4274 ext. 111
f: 615-826-6378 

Tom Stanley

Tom Stanley

Vice President of Claims

As the Vice President of Claims at Safety Engineering & Claims Management, Tom Stanley is at the helm of supervising all property and casualty claims. With an expansive career of 34 years, he has developed a profound expertise through a series of progressive roles, including positions as a large loss specialist, litigation specialist, and unit manager. These diverse experiences have shaped his comprehensive understanding of the claims process and his effective leadership style.

Tom’s academic achievements complement his professional journey, holding a Master’s in Business Administration alongside certifications as an Associate in Claims, Associate in Management, and Senior Claims Law Associate. His educational background enriches his ability to navigate the complexities of the insurance industry. Driven by a passion for aiding those in community-serving sectors, such as education and local government, Tom finds his work deeply rewarding.

Beyond his professional commitments, Tom is a fervent sports fan, enthusiastically supporting the University of Tennessee’s sports teams and the Cincinnati Reds. He enjoys travelling with his wife, balancing his busy work life with simple, fulfilling pleasures. This combination of professional dedication, community focus, and personal interests makes Tom an invaluable leader and team member at Safety Engineering & Claims Management.

Connect With Tom: 
tstanley@sectn.com 
p: 888-743-4336 ext. 138
f: 615.953.6292 

 

Joan Peace

Joan Peace

Receptionist

Joan Peace serves as an essential support member at Next Generation Underwriters and Safety Engineering, assisting work comp claim representatives with their daily activities. With a dedicated tenure as a receptionist for 21 years, Joan has been the cheerful and welcoming first point of contact, both in person and over the phone. Her commitment to ensuring a positive and efficient experience for everyone, coupled with her unwavering team spirit, has been a cornerstone of her role. Her journey in the company saw her transition from handling general office responsibilities and supporting various projects to focusing entirely on the work comp segment, where she now manages tasks such as bill payments and filing.

Joan’s educational background includes a degree from Knoxville Business College, and her career path has been diverse, encompassing roles as a legal secretary, bookkeeper, and school secretary. Additionally, she has played a significant role in various capacities at her church, where her husband is a pastor. This varied experience has equipped her with a broad skill set that she brings to her current role.

Passionate about her work, Joan believes strongly in the value and necessity of the services provided by her company, ensuring that clients’ needs are met with utmost care and professionalism. Outside of work, she is actively involved with her family, friends, and church community, dedicating her time to these cherished aspects of her life. Joan’s blend of professional dedication, diverse skills, and community involvement makes her a valuable asset to her team and an inspiring figure in her wider community.

Connect With Joan: 
jpeace@ngutn.com 
p: 615.822.5454 ext. 101
f: 615.826.6378

Kathy Kinard

Kathy Kinard

Senior Claims Adjuster

As a Senior Claims Adjuster at Safety Engineering & Claims Management, Kathy Kinard expertly manages complex, litigated loss-time cases. Bringing over 25 years of experience in the workers’ compensation industry, with an impressive 18-year tenure at her current company, Kathy skillfully negotiates settlements, participates in mediations, and handles court approvals, showcasing her deep expertise and commitment.

Kathy is professionally equipped with a Workers Compensation adjuster certification and a Kentucky license, ensuring her expertise is both recognized and highly relevant in her field. Her passion for her role is driven by a commitment to doing what is right: aiding injured workers in navigating the workers’ compensation system and assisting them in their journey back to the workplace. This dedication highlights her commitment to ethical practices and the welfare of the individuals she assists.

Outside the office, Kathy enjoys spending precious moments with her family and grandchildren, Payton, Wyatt, and Will. She relishes relaxing at the beach, unwinding by the pool on weekends, and experiencing the thrill of a Kansas City Chiefs game. This blend of profound professional experience, a strong sense of ethics, and a love for family and leisure activities portrays Kathy as a dedicated, compassionate, and well-rounded member of her team. 

Connect With Kathy: 
kkinard@sectn.com 
p: (615) 826-4274 ext. 117 
f: 615.826.6378 

Laura Huff

Laura Huff

Sr. Claims Representative
Laura Huff is a distinguished professional in the field of claims handling, with a career that commenced in 1988 as a trainee at State Farm. Over the years, Laura has developed an expertise in first and third party property, automobile, and bodily injury claims for TNRMT members and claimants. Her ascent to the position of Claim Specialist at State Farm, marked by a notable 100% success rate in mediation settlements, underscores her proficiency and dedication. Laura’s experience extends to her role as an independent adjuster, where she adeptly managed claim investigations across the South, often being the first on the scene for various insurance carriers. Furthermore, she played a pivotal role in starting a cargo & heavy equipment division in her previous job, managing claims in 26 states.
 
Laura’s academic credentials include a Bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University, bolstered by comprehensive certifications in Basic Claims, Estimatics, Mitchellmatix, Xactimate, and Catastrophe. This solid educational background fuels her passion for assisting individuals through the intricate claims process, striving to provide clarity and efficient conclusions to those unfamiliar with these procedures.
 
Outside of work, Laura is deeply committed to her family, cherishing every moment spent with her four grandchildren. She maintains strong ties with her high school friends, participating in annual ‘girls’ trips and embracing every new adventure with enthusiasm. An avid reader and walker, she is also a dedicated member of the First Baptist Church of Hendersonville. Laura’s professional acumen, combined with her personal dedication and community involvement, make her an invaluable asset to her team and a cherished member of her community.

 

Connect With Laura: 
lhuff@sectn.com 
p: 615.826.4274 ext. 114
f: 615.826.6378

Mark Bilyeu

Mark Bilyeu

Loss Control-Public Relations-Safety Education Trainer

Mark Bilyeu brings over 16 years of invaluable experience to his role as a Loss Control-Public Relations-Safety Education Trainer at Safety Engineering & Claims Management. His dedication to the field is exemplified by his significant achievement of training over 50,000 school and county employees in safety and insurance-related matters. His commitment extends beyond the classroom; Mark has journeyed over 700,000 miles across Tennessee roads, ensuring that clients’ safety and insurance needs are met with the utmost care and expertise. 

With a robust foundation in education, safety, and public speaking, coupled with his licensure in Property/Casualty insurance since 2012, Mark has been instrumental in fostering SEC’s relationship with diverse communities across Tennessee. He values the art of face-to-face interaction, a skill he believes is crucial yet increasingly rare in today’s digital world. Outside of his professional realm, Mark is deeply devoted to his family, taking pride in his role as a father to two bright daughters and as a husband to his supportive wife of 26 years. An outdoors enthusiast, he relishes hunting, fishing, and weightlifting. Mark looks forward to a future of tranquility on his farm, where he dreams of enjoying his retirement while watching his grandchildren grow. His blend of professional acumen and personal interests paints the picture of a man deeply rooted in his commitments to his work, family, and lifelong passions. 

Connect With Mark: 
mbilyeu@sectn.com 
p: 615.826.4274 ext. 119  
f: 615.826.6378 

Paul Mangrum

Paul Mangrum

Litigation Specialist for Property and Casualty claims

Paul Mangrum stands as a seasoned Litigation Specialist in Property and Casualty claims at Safety Engineering & Claims Management, where he has cemented his expertise over an impressive tenure of 46 years, as of September 2023. Paul’s comprehensive responsibilities span the full spectrum of claims in litigation, including meticulous investigation, astute evaluation, strategic negotiation, and effective settlement. His longstanding commitment to the industry is highlighted by his active participation in the Arbitration Forums for over 15 years, earning him the accolade of Arbitrator of the Year in 2004, and his leadership as President of the Nashville Claims Managers Association. 

A believer in lifelong learning, Paul has expanded his knowledge through various continuing education courses, covering INS, AIC, CPCU, and SCLA designations. He finds fulfillment in mentoring the next generation of claims professionals, imparting wisdom and fostering development. Paul prides himself on providing a personal touch to each claim, understanding the paramount importance of resolving clients’ issues promptly and with minimal disruption. Outside of his professional life, Paul enjoys exploring the world with his wife, Vicki, from cheering on the University of Tennessee at sporting events to relaxing on distant islands or enjoying the simplicity of weekend camping. His professional acumen and personal endeavors both reflect a dedication to excellence and a zest for life. 

Connect With Paul: 
pmangrum@sectn.com
p: 615.826.4274 ext. 115 
f: 615.826.6378 

Diane Gruenewald

Diane Gruenewald

Claims Representative

As a Claims Representative at Safety Engineering & Claims Management, Diane Gruenewald expertly focuses on medical-only claims. Boasting over 20 years of experience in Tennessee Workers’ Compensation, Diane has honed a specialty in government entities. Her career includes a significant stretch of over five years working with the Tennessee Risk Management Trust, where she has demonstrated her profound expertise and commitment to excellence in the field.

Educationally, Diane’s background in Education from Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, complements her professional journey. Her expertise is further validated by her certification from the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Diane’s passion for her role stems from her love for organization and attention to detail, which she likens to the intricate process of piecing together a puzzle to achieve complete resolution in her work.

Beyond her career, Diane enjoys spending quality time on the lake with her family, balancing her professional life with personal relaxation and enjoyment. This blend of deep professional experience, specialized educational background, and a love for family time makes Diane an invaluable asset to the Safety Engineering & Claims Management team.

Connect With Diane: 
dgruenewald@sectn.com 
p: 615-826-4274 ext. 116
f: 615-826-6378

 

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