Barnaby Leaving Campbell Group

May 9, 2005
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BYRONCENTER — Merle Barnaby is leaving his position as CEO and chairman of the Campbell Group, but he will still be a familiar face around the office.

After 36 years of juggling CEO, president and chairman positions, Barnaby is retiring and slowly easing out of the Campbell Group and into continuing his hobbies of hunting and traveling throughout the world.

"I'm officially no longer on the board of directors; I'm out of the day-to-day loop. But I do have a book of business that I've had for 35 years," he said.

Former Campbell Group President Edward Schinnerer took over Barnaby's position as chairman of the board of trustees and CEO on April 15, while Donald Collins has moved from chief operating officer to president of the company.

Collins said Barnaby's decision to stay on with the company has made the transition smoother.

"Although we're losing Merle as chairman, we'll still have him as an active member," Collins said. "That sort of eases the transition into the new management."

Collins said Barnaby is an asset to the company in whatever role he plays.

"Merle is one of those unique human beings that just has the personality that draws people to him," Collins said. "He has a way of really providing a sense of confidence and trust."

Barnaby has been with the company almost since the beginning, starting in 1969.

"We started at a kitchen table, Campbell and myself," he said of company founder Ward Scott Campbell. "He needed a salesman and I fit that bill pretty good, I guess."

The company went from earning $52,000 in commissioned income in 1970 to more than $20 million a year now.

"It's a bit of a success story," said Barnaby, who describes himself as a "hick country farm boy" with a high school education.

Barnaby said he is sure that Collins and Schinnerer will continue that success story.

"I think I brought the company about as far as my capacity will let me," he said. "The new boys are a lot sharper and can lead it onto the next level."

Schinnerer and Collins have been working together for four years and were not surprised by the management changes in the company, Collins said.

"We've been working in this direction for a while now," he said. "We've got very strong hopes and expectations for the future."

Schinnerer said he is looking forward to helping the company continue its growth.

"We're looking to expand either within the Midwest area or out of our Florida offices," he said.

While the company has been experiencing generic growth by adding new clients, Schinnerer said he is working to make more acquisitions and expanding in that capacity.

Though Schinnerer said he will miss Barnaby in the day-to-day aspects of the company, he will look to him as a mentor.

"He certainly has done a lot to benefit the agency, but he's also earned the right to do that extra hunting and golfing that he wants to do," Schinnerer said.

Schinnerer has been with the company since 1983, serving as executive vice president and managing the Campbell Financial Benefits Division. Schinnerer also has worked for Central Mutual Insurance, Meadowbrook Insurance and Andover Insurance. He was a principal in the independent agency BOL Associates before it was acquired by Campbell in 1983.

Collins joined The Campbell Group as the chief operating officer in 2001. As president of the company, he will be responsible for directing and managing staff service functions of the organization, its Florida subsidiary and personal lines operation. Before coming to Campbell, Collins worked five years at National-Standard Company, 13 years at Foremost Insurance and two years at Farmers Insurance.

The Campbell Group is an independent insurance provider headquartered in Byron Center. The West Michigan location has a staff of more than 100 employees including more than 40 licensed insurance agents. Campbell Group also has offices in Largo, Fla. As an independent insurance provider, the company works with more than 75 local, regional and national insurance companies to provide highly customized programs and global coverage.

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