Introducing The First Woman CEO to Take on Wheelers Insurance

There are lots of changes coming our way as our team of twelve navigates a 155-year-old business.

In December 2021, we made a few role changes. Mike Newsom, former CEO of Wheelers, has now passed the torch to our beloved Michelle Walker. “What can’t this woman do?” is the question.

She does it all, whether it’s battling all our feelings and making work culture better through HR, taking on all our tedious finances as a bookkeeper, or just being the confidant, any employee can go to for support and advice.

Outside of work she is a mom of two daughters, two boxers, two cats, and a hamster. And an amazing spouse to her honey, Jeremy. Michelle is truly a superwoman in all our eyes!

Here is an interview we had with the new CEO.

What first brought you to work for W.J. Wheeler Insurance?

The idea of being closer to home, shorter commute time and flexibility to be a part of my daughter’s school and activities. Family is very important to me, and Wheelers has always maintained a culture of encouraging a healthy work/life balance. I admired that about Wheelers Insurance, so it was an easy decision to switch from an employer I had already given 8 years too.

What were your first thoughts/fears about WJW turning into a co-op?

No fears, always excitement and curiosity!

One of the most rewarding experiences you have had working for the company?

I started my career with WJW as a CSR in our Bethel office in July 2013 – fast forward five years, and after obtaining my Property Casualty & Life Insurance Producer licenses I was given a unique opportunity. Our resident Bookkeeper decided to explore other career options and made a recommendation that I should fill her role as Wheelers Bookkeeper. It was a position I had never been in but was extremely excited for the opportunity and the confidence my predecessor had in me! I jumped into this new chapter of my career in December 2018. I have grown in strides and enjoy every challenge that I have encountered – it made me a better employee, a knowledgeable professional and an empathetic peer. This really sparked my passion to dig into the unknown, embrace new things, and not fear away from a challenge. Long story short, the most rewarding experience I had was to have someone else have the confidence in me to do something great and for me to have the courage to go for it!

What drove you to want to become a leader?

The desire to grow. I have worked for and beside many strong, independent women who I credit most of my personal and professional attributes too. I have always had the desire to lead, but not as a boss – more as a mentor, someone who encourages, listens and helps in any way possible. A leader that is right there with you, in the trenches getting the job done and then applauding the efforts from the sidelines!

One of the hardest things you have had to overcome to get where you are today:

Confidence. I grew up very shy, and hesitant. I would be the one sitting in the background, observing and listening but very seldom speak my ideas or opinions for fear of rejection or ridicule. It was easy for me to be overlooked.

What is your advice for someone who is looking for happiness in a new career?

My advice would be, take the chance, jump into it, you will never know what you are missing out on unless you take the risk that scares you the most, that’s where true growth is going to happen!

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

Wheelers is a great agency so it’s hard to say I would want to change anything about it. But now that we are a worker cooperative and operating under a new structure, I would want to help my team find their confidence. My goal is to encourage jumping into those challenges that scare us the most, embracing change and speaking up with new ideas and solutions! We are a force to be reckoned with and I envision Wheelers Insurance becoming a name everyone knows and wants to work with!