Interview With Pattie Gillette
It may be difficult to picture the vivacious Pattie Gillette, with her wide smile and long auburn hair as a
prison guard. Until an on-the-job injury called a halt to such activities, she was a correctional officer at the
California Medical Facility preceding her career in insurance. “The best day I had as a correctional officer was
worse than the worst day I’ve had as an insurance adjuster” Pattie explains. “But I learned a lot from the
experience and I think it prepared me for challenges I’ve faced in every situation I’ve found myself in since
then.” Pattie continued “The conditions are harsh, when an officer is on duty its an 8- hour shift- no breaks, no
lunch and the stress of being constantly alert is wearing. When there is an emergency, the shift goes to a 12-hour
stint without a break. I was lucky because in my time there no riots happened and no officer was killed.”
Feeling safer and less stressed managing the office at a Harmon Auto Glass office, Pattie learned about
insurance processes and was happy to be able to help people through a stressful time. When Liberty Mutual ran an ad
for a customer service representative in the auto sector, Pattie and 300 others applied for the 2 open positions.
Her work background was helpful but it was her thirst for knowledge and her love of people that made her a natural
fit for processing claims.
Pattie relates that she had only one customer complaint through the years stemming from an illegible submission-
she didn’t deny the claim, only asked for more information. The customer felt put upon and protested to the
President of the company which reverberated right down the line to Pattie’s desk. Ironically a few years later
Pattie handled a claim for the same customer who had a car stolen and this time the policyholder wrote a glowing
letter complimenting her professionalism. She shrugs her slender shoulders at the nature of people.
Liberty Mutual, like all insurance carriers, had many changes through the years and with the right attitude the
changes can lead to new opportunities. The floods in the Sacramento Valley were an opportunity to work with
Homeowner Policyholders but the Northridge Earthquake provided the certainty that Pattie wanted to work with
homeowner property claims. Even so, she moved around in the claims department and worked with the Bodily Injury
unit and SIU for a year while the company separated Homeowners and Auto claims handling. She became a Team Director
who was responsible for assigning claims to their team, managing the claims volume and identified educational needs
among the adjusters while fielding coverage questions. When the position of Team Director was eliminated, Pattie
went to the field and continued working toward her degree to with an eye to her goal to work in management.
When the opportune moment arrived, it was Safeco Insurance that was holding the key to the executive suite.
After years with Liberty Mutual she found the move to another company hard to do, but her goal beckoned. While she
was managing field adjusters in Northern California and Arizona, she fought hard to maintain a balance between work
and personal life. Traveling constantly, she found that she missed a great deal of her daughter’s life, not to
mention her own. Pattie felt that she had to take control of her out-of-control work life so she became a manager
of inside adjusters, a position that doesn’t require a life on the road. Since Safeco closed the office in
Sacramento, she like many resident adjusters, finds it difficult to shut the door to her home office and not be
obsessed with the siren call of the computer. The flexible schedule is a bonus, but she misses the camaraderie of
her co-workers- a common situation with resident adjusters. When she can manage it, Pattie enjoys attending the SCA
meetings to keep in touch with people that speak her language. Pattie says that her focus on education has become a
CPCU designation which she finds to be more relevant than a business degree, so her academic goal has changed its
face but education remains at the top of her list.
Now that Liberty Mutual and Safeco have merged, life is even better for Pattie. She loves being back under the
Liberty Mutual umbrella- the company that gave her a start in the business that she loves. She feels that she is
getting her life/work balance in tune and now that her knee surgery is over, she is looking forward to getting her
energy level up by going to the gym regularly. She credits having wonderful backup at work with her easy transition
after surgery back into the work routine.
In spite of recovering from the surgery on her knee, Pattie participated recently in a neighbor’s campaign to
feed the hungry in a park downtown. She found it most gratifying and heartwarming to see the gratitude of the
homeless people and with typical aplomb says she ‘just took a couple more Advil’ to compensate for the hours on her
Her three children have produced grandchildren to warm Pattie’s heart and life is good.
by Joan Barrett -