After 37 years in insurance, Margie Jetton says she's stepping away from her office and leaving the day-to-day operations of Advanced Insurance Group to Kathy LeStourgeon.
"The technology is getting more difficult for me," Jetton says. "Today everything has to go into the computer just so. The younger generation grew up with that; I didn't. So it's time. Kathy has the same philosophy I do, and she's much faster online. I won't be leaving Kerrville, I'll just be a phone call away."
Jetton says LeStourgeon took the lead during the last two open-enrollment periods. She started with Jetton in 2011, with no experience in insurance, and wasn't a licensed agent to begin with. So she learned to do it right.
"I started out focused on insurance products for seniors," Jetton says. "Now all of a sudden, I am one."
She says she was born in Fort Worth, where her father, R.E. Davis, worked for General Dynamics. But when she was five, R.E and Francis Davis bought a ranch near Gordon, about 60 miles west off of Interstate 20. "We named it the Lazy D Ranch, and I grew up there. I graduated from Gordon High School in the largest class ever, in 1971. We had 21 graduates."
Jetton says R.E. was an entrepreneur, and always had a side business or two going. One of them was running bulldozers, and she got to where she would load them on the trailers when everyone else was scared of them.
She says she was a "wannabe hippie" after high school, so she passed on college. About that time R.E. retired from General Dynamics, quitting the 60-mile commute, and bought four shrimp boats operating out of Aransas Pass. He became the captain of one, Jetton's brothers, Larry and Bill, operated two more, and Jetton became the captain of the "San Jose."
"It also had a Cummins diesel engine," she says. "So it was like driving a bulldozer on water. But engines break down, and one day I found myself out in the middle of the Gulf, drifting. I radioed the Coast Guard for help, but another shrimper, the 'Ramblin Rose,' was nearby, and offered to pick me up. The captain was Gary Jetton. We dated for a while, and got married May 31, 1972."
She says they alternated for a while, between shrimping and Gary working as a driller in the oil field, depending on which business was booming at the time. Then Gary landed a job as a mechanic for Poteet ISD. Jetton went to school to become a volunteer EMT, while substitute teaching.
She says, "I had a friend who worked at the local car dealership, and he wanted to go on vacation. His boss wouldn't let him unless he found a 'warm body' to replace him. It was a joke, me taking over, since the only thing I knew about cars was the color and where the keys were. But I ended up selling three trucks and two used cars.
"One of my customers was Waldine Mac, and she asked me if selling cars was what I wanted to do. She asked when my day off was. She said she sold insurance, and I told her I didn't think much of insurance, but she said she'd buy me lunch if I would ride with her for two hours. At the end of the day, I asked her, 'So all I have to do is talk to people?' She got me an interview with TLC Insurance Group, and I was hired in 1984."
Jetton says she went through their school and became licensed. Her job was to make their sales pitch to 20 to 25 people per day. It was an honest company, so they taught her never to pressure clients, but to do the best presentation she could, say "Thank you," and leave.
She says, "We were working with long-term care policies, which were new on the market. I liked the job, because we were selling to seniors. Seniors are home during the day, so we didn't have to go out at night. But I was spending 36 weeks a year going from hotel to hotel in small towns, working door-to-door. Luckily Gary worked for the school, so he was home when the kids were."
"I became the first woman with TLC to excel in marketing," Jetton says. "TLC rewarded me with a convention trip to the Y.O. Hotel, including a trip to the Y.O. Ranch, and meals in the best area restaurants. I looked around and thought, 'Why am I going all over the state looking for seniors, when they're all in Kerrville?'"
She offered to swap territories, and TLC took her up on it. "I went home and told Gary we were moving. He said, 'Okay.' On July 4, 1990, we found a house on Turtle Creek. It was a rainy year, though, and I got stranded in or out six times. So we bought our present home, and moved in on July 4, 1991."
Jetton says coming to the Hill Country was a shock. "In small towns, you can't just walk in anywhere. The only person who can do that is the Swann Company man. And Kerrville was different. It was a small town with 'big-city savvy,' and door-to-door didn't work. But I found my way to the Dietert Center. I met Nell Lenard, Doris Reynolds, and Marie Hurt, and they took me under their wings and taught me to be a Kerrvillian. Since then, I've been very blessed by Kerrville."
She says she took her business independent in 1993, opening Advanced Insurance Group. She prides herself on matching the right insurance to each client, following the advice of a TLC mentor, Alan Witten, who said, "Sell from your heart, not from your pocketbook, to be successful. If you do otherwise, you deserve to fail."
Jetton says she and Gary raised two children. Their daughter, Charna Allen, lives in Bigfoot, in Frio County. She is an LVN, soon to be an RN. Allen's daughter, Darien Page, has three children, twin five-year-old boys and a five-month-old daughter. Page's husband, Travis, has just opened Twin Creek Construction, becoming the youngest builder for Comanche Trace.
She says they lost their son, Heath Jetton, to cancer when he was 18.
Now that she's out of the office, Jetton says she and Gary have bought a motor home, and hope to use it. She intends to keep volunteering, driving for Kerr Konnect, and will remain active in the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce. And when LeStourgeon really needs her, she'll answer her phone.