MOSES LAKE — The staff at Trask Insurance/Robert M. Trask Agency had custom cookies made for Robert Trask’s retirement party, including some picturing a tie and white shirt.
The staff dressed up for the occasion, too. Everybody in the office wore a tie and white shirt.
“Twenty-some years ago I started wearing a shirt and tie all the time,” Trask said. “Fifteen years ago I changed to a white shirt and tie. Because the white shirt matched everything.
“There was no reason for it. Then it became kind of a trademark,” he said.
Trask retired April 27 after 44 years at the agency, started by his father, Robert Trask Sr., in 1960. This is his second try at retirement, having retired once already 15 years ago. But it turned out he wasn’t ready for it yet.
“I liked what I was doing. I thought it was a service to our clients and the community,” he said.
Trask is a Moses Lake native, and like a lot of other young people, originally went looking for a career out of town when he first started. He went to work for Weyerhaeuser as a purchasing agent; it was a good job and he did well at it, he said. But he came to a crossroads.
“I was looking at transfers (with Weyerhaeuser), or at coming back to Moses Lake. So dad and I worked out a deal,” he said.
Joining the agency was attractive for several reasons, Trask said. Among other things, his dad gave him the option to buy the business eventually.
“That had a lot of appeal,” he said.
“It was being able to go to work with my father,” he said. “I had a basic background in insurance as a purchasing agent. It was an opportunity for me to leave the corporate structure and go out on my own with the business to purchase.”
He went to work at Trask Insurance in 1978, and bought the business in 1984.
“I sold the business (in 2017) to Shane Heston,” he said. “He was an employee at the time. I had hired him for that purpose, and it worked out.”
Even now, even after selling, retiring was a tough decision, he said.
“When you’ve spent that many years in the business, it’s tough to give it up. And it’s still tough today,” he said.
Success in his business, he said, was and is based on customer service.
“I think it’s a fact that we were willing to try to be as many things to as many people as possible,” he said. “Meaning we tried to solve their total account needs.”
That meant offering a diverse range of options to clients.
“Home, cars, boats, commercial insurance,” he said. “We’re a very broad spectrum agency.”
About 65% of the company’s business is commercial, he said, and commercial insurance is different from insuring a house or a car. Those are specific items, and everything in the policy pertains to the house, the car or the boat.
“If you do it right, you do it right,” Trask said.
Insuring a business requires insuring both property and operations, with clients trying to juggle different needs and trying to balance costs. That gets a lot more complicated, he said.
“Commercial insurance can get so broad, and people start withdrawing specific needs, and you end up with a product, and hopefully that product is okay. Commercial insurance is a different entity,” he said.
Owning his own business also gave him a chance to get involved in the community, he said.
“I like Moses Lake,” he said. “I’m proud of this community – very proud of this community. It offered my father and I a great living.”
He’s been in the Moses Lake Lions Club for more than 40 years, he said, he was on the Big Bend Community College Foundation board and is a past president of the Grant County Economic Development Council. Currently he’s a member of the Confluence Health Board of Trustees. He’s been recognized for his community service by the Rotary Club of Moses Lake. He emceed the annual Boys and Girls Club auction for nearly two decades, he said, and conducted auctions for other community organizations.
He’s also been active in professional associations, spending more than a decade on the board of the organization representing independent insurance agencies in Washington.
“It’s the community I live in and I’ve always tried to stay active in some form of community service,” he said.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at email@example.com.