It was now many years ago, long before the “Cluttered Desk” blog came into existence. In fact, at the time, blogging had not really taken off; the medium itself was in its infancy on the still evolving internet. I was standing in the lobby of what was at the time the Las Vegas Hilton during the annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference. And I was talking to Peter Rousmaniere.
Or as I soon came to realize, I was dancing with him.
Peter Rousmaniere has been, for my entire 20-year industry experience, the patriarch of opinion and analysis for the workers’ compensation industry. Long before the clamoring masses of bloggers took to their keyboards, before social media clogged our inboxes and streamed incessant content at us 24 hours a day, Rousmaniere, then with Risk and Insurance Magazine, was the columnist and opinion writer that everyone knew. His persistent curiosity about all thing’s workers’ comp combined with his impressive intellect and intense ability to analyze and digest information made him the best-known writer the industry had to offer.
I had met Peter several times and had interviewed him on a CompTalk Radio program (an early podcast style program we offered before podcasting was a thing). And on this particular morning, I had run into him in the hotel lobby, and we struck up a conversation. I don’t even recall what the conversation that day was, but I remember the rest of the experience with absolute clarity.
As we spoke, I slowly became aware of others who had either paused or were loitering about, just out of our earshot. They were watching us – more accurately they were watching Peter – becoming satellites in orbit around his impressive gravitational force, slowly milling about and waiting for their opportunity to speak to him. Like single attendees at a social soirée, they were waiting for their chance to cut in and have a moment of his time and attention. Perhaps they wanted to tell him about their brilliant new product or service, or relate a concept or idea they had, all in the hopes of gaining a mention or more within one of his many columns.
I realized that my time with him would be short, as others were anxious to cut in. I wasn’t talking to Peter Rousmaniere. I was dancing with Peter Rousmaniere.
As I ended the conversation and started to walk away, one of them swept in to introduce themselves and start their “pitch.” I recall being amused at the attention he was receiving, and thinking how it must be difficult to manage people’s expectations in those situations.
I had no way of knowing at the time that Peter would one day be the lead columnist for my own company but would have been thrilled if I had known of that eventuality. For the last two years his work has graced our digital pages. His introduction as a columnist on WorkersCompensation.com, which coincided with our expanded original content news offerings, gave immediate gravitas and credibility to our efforts. I was honored that he agreed to participate and contribute through our platform.
And with yesterday’s column, Predictions, he has made his last contribution and fitting departure from the workers’ compensation industry. He has retired and will certainly be missed by many.
Today I am proud to count Peter among my friends. His honesty and passion for our industry is to be respected and commended. He possesses an endless curiosity about life and the human condition; embracing challenges and new experiences with an almost youthful level of enthusiasm. Orbiting in different political spectrums, he told me at the beginning of our working relationship that he was very happy to be working with a publisher that has a conservative bent that differs from his own leanings. And while we did not agree on all things political, our discussions and discourse were never disagreeable. His nature has always been to observe and consider; with analysis that never condemns where opinions simply differ. And that is the ultimate honor of having the opportunity to dance with Peter Rousmaniere.
Farewell, Peter, and thank you for your years of service to the workers’ compensation industry. You’ll be missed but not forgotten.