John Sowards stepped down as Chairman of the PEBA Board of Directors effective December 31, 2021. Rocky Pearce, who currently serves as the Board’s Vice Chairman, will become Chairman. Mr. Sowards will remain a member of the Board through his current term, which ends June 30, 2023.
Mr. Sowards has served on the PEBA Board since its inception in 2012, and served as the first Chairman of the Retirement Policy Committee. He was first elected PEBA Board Chairman in February 2016, following the resignation of Art Bjontegard. Under Mr. Sowards’ leadership and guidance, the PEBA Board has accomplished many tasks, including pension funding reform through the Retirement System Funding and Administration Act of 2017. The Act in 2017 created a significant change to the funding mechanism for the Retirement Systems and has produced positive results for the funding of the Retirement Systems. It also decreased the assumed rate of return, which reduced the investment risk of the Systems, and reduced the funding period, which is the amount of time it will take to pay off the unfunded liability actuarial accrued liability (UAAL). The additional contributions required by the 2017 legislation coupled with strong investment performance have reduced the funding period by 10 years. The PEBA Board expects continued improvement in the funding metrics of the Systems.
At the same time that these material, positive changes were made to the funding of the Retirement Systems, the PEBA Board and the General Assembly also made significant improvements to the State Health Plan. The State Health Plan benchmarks strongly against both public and private insurance plans when comparing premiums, copayments and deductibles. During Mr. Sowards’ tenure as Chairman, the State Health Plan maintained its benchmarking status while also adding telehealth options and covered well visits.
Mr. Sowards stated, “One of the great honors of my professional life is to have served as PEBA’s Chairman. But, in order to properly provide for an effective succession plan for leadership of both PEBA and its Health Care Policy Committee, I need to step down.”
“John has provided great leadership for the agency’s strategic initiatives over the past five and a half years, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him. His guidance and contributions have been immeasurable,” said Peggy G. Boykin, Executive Director.
Pearce, also a Board member since 2012, has served as Vice Chairman since the Board’s first elections in December 2012. He also chairs the Board’s Health Care Policy Committee, and in that position has provided guidance in managing the health and prescription benefits PEBA administers.
The PEBA Board wishes to thank Mr. Sowards for his skillful leadership and to thank Mr. Pearce for assuming the role of Chairman.