Chip Terhune was named president and CEO of SAIF starting July 1, 2021 (Courtesy/SAIF)

Chip Terhune had a lot going for him when he applied for the CEO position of SAIF–a not-for-profit, state-chartered workers’ compensation company based in Salem. He had spent time around state government, working in heavy manufacturing and had insurance experience. 

But it’s the fact that he’s an Oregonian that set him apart for the board. 

“We’ve all seen examples of people who come in front out of state and they don’t understand how it works,” said SAIF board member John Mohlis or Terhune’s resident status.

In fact, Terhune was raised about an hour south of Salem in Corvallis where he went to Oregon State University. 

“I was born in Ohio, but I’ve spent most of my life and career in Oregon,” Terhune said. 

Terhune started his tenure as SAIF President and CEO on July 1 in the sweet spot when it seemed vaccinations could make Covid a thing of the past. 

Now, he expects Covid will cast a longer shadow as he continues to get his feet under him.

“First and foremost is navigating the pandemic challenges that all of us are facing,” he said. “We’re a health and safety company so the pandemic looms large over the next year so I think that will be the top priority for the immediate horizon.”

SAIF is the largest workers compensation provider in Oregon, insuring over 54,000 companies across the state, and employing more than 1,000 people.

Terhune replaces outgoing president and CEO Kerry Barnett who announced his retirement late last year after seven years in the position. 

Terhune, who was officially offered the job in May, previously served as chief of staff for Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski, an assistant executive director of the Oregon Education Association and as the director of environment and public affairs for Schnitzer Steel.

Immediately before joining SAIF, Terhune served as the vice president and general manager of government programs and accounts for the healthcare technology company, Medecision. 

“We wanted someone who had a good working knowledge of the insurance industry and if it was tied to workers comp that was helpful, but it didn’t have to be,” said Mohlis. “I think we wanted to make sure the person had a good understanding of how Oregon’s system works.”

The insurance system can seem intimidating, but Terhune has boiled down SAIF’s purpose and his goals. 

Those include expansion; diversity, equity and inclusion, and “sustainment of SAIF’s remarkable work culture,” Terhune said. 

He also plans to focus on “really driving the value of partnerships with the community, whether those be with business community and policy holders, or workers in labor,” he said. 

The board has yet to have an official meeting with its new CEO–that’s set to happen in September–but so far, it’s heard good things. 

“So far, so good,” said Mohlis. “I think he’s smart enough to know he doesn’t know everything going on at SAIF and so he relies on everyone who works at SAIF.” 

Terhune agrees. When talking about the most interesting part of his day, he says it’s talking to his new colleagues. 

“It’s just the most interesting part of my day,” he said. “It’s surprising how complicated workers’ comp can be and yet how simple SAIF has successfully made it for injured workers and policyholders to engage.”

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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