In 2008, history was made twice as America elected its first Black president and New York got its first Black governor. But what many New Yorkers don’t know is that one Harlem resident made some history of his own two years ago in public service.
Kermitt Brooks currently serves as first deputy superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department. He’s held the position since 2006 and is the first Black person to be appointed to the job. Brooks is second in line to become the state superintendent of Insurance.
Originally from Flint, Michigan, Brooks, 44, has been a resident of New York for almost 20 years since earning his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in International Studies and his J.D. from the University of Michigan. While in law school, he served as a contributing editor for the Michigan Law Review.
Making the move to New York in 1989, he first worked at a law firm practicing commercial litigation and later worked for Met Life in their legal department. After Elliot Spitzer became attorney general, Brooks was tapped to be bureau chief for the Claims Bureau, overseeing 3,000 cases.
“I worked for Elliot Spitzer for eight years, and he’s a phenomenal attorney,” said Brooks. “I’m very happy and pleased about the opportunity he gave me. I give him all of the credit for giving me the love of public service. He’s really a phenomenal guy.” Spitzer later promoted Brooks to Deputy Attorney General where he oversaw a $200 million budget. He also oversaw the sale of employee benefit plans and investigations into brokers’ compensation.
When Spitzer was elected to governor, he appointed Eric Dinallo to superintendent of Insurance, who asked Brooks to be his first deputy. Brooks said, “I’m the number two guy, so I oversee all of the functions of my office, the property, life and health bureau.”
Along with overseeing his own office, Brooks works with the superintendent on several state initiatives, including one to increase surety bonds for minority-and women-owned businesses. He also represents the superintendent in the Harlem Community Development Corporation. Outside of work, he finds time to mentor young Black professionals, many of whom he has taken under his wing since they were in high school. One of his mentees who he’s guided since high school recently earned her MBA. Another is now a practicing attorney.
“When I was coming up, there weren’t a lot of role mod- els outside of my family,” he said. “I think it’s important to give that to young Black kids. They need to see someone who is ahead of them. That’s the key to success.”
When it comes to his views on issues, Brooks said that he’s a strong advocate for universal health care, noting that it’s a “basic thing we should have.” He’s also an education advocate.
While Brooks has the makings and experience for politics, a run for office is not in his future. He said he enjoys what he is doing now and plans on staying in public service.
“I like working for Gov. Paterson, and I want to continue working for him and pursuing his agenda,” he said. Brooks recently married his life partner, Dan Manjovi, in October. They reside in the Morningside Heights section