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Hixson State Farm agent carries on long legacy

As the men of the Sharpe family gather around their food-laden table this Christmas Day, they’ll likely have one thing on their mind, and it’s not the smoked ham.

It’s insurance.

Without fail, at most family gatherings, father Gene and sons Larry, Rick and David launch into lengthy conversations on “solving the problems of insurance,” much to the amusement of other family members.

That’s because the Sharpe men represent two generations of local State Farm agents. And come March 1 of the new year, the third generation will be continuing the tradition in the form of Rick’s son, Ryan Sharpe.

“Carrying on the legacy is very important to me,” Ryan Sharpe said. “I’ve pieced together everything they’ve [his father, uncles and grandfather] experienced, so I can offer [clients] the same, but with a new approach.”

Growing up, Ryan saw both the perks and the downfalls of being an insurance agent. He was able to go with his father on business trips to places like Rome and Hawaii, and he was proud to see his dad’s name listed as a sponsor on the fence of his little league field, he recalled.

But it came with sacrifices too, Ryan added. There were many days he saw his father when he woke up in the morning and not again until he was back in his pajamas, ready for bed.

“It’s a lifestyle; you literally work 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” Ryan Sharpe said, explaining that his dad encouraged him to try a different profession before starting out in the family business. “I was never really pushed toward State Farm.”

So he worked for a local company for seven years, moving up through the ranks to become operations manager – until he decided to follow in his family’s footsteps.

“[Being a State Farm agent is] a great lifestyle, but more importantly it’s being able to help people, from a farmer to someone on the board with TVA,” Ryan Sharpe said. “It’s a great opportunity to be a pillar in the community and be able to help people on a necessity: insurance.”

“I knew it’s in his blood,” said his wife Esther, a native of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “I am probably just as excited as he is about this opportunity.”

Both she and her husband said they have a passion for working with young people in the community. Once Ryan’s uncle Larry retires from his Hixson State Farm post, Ryan will take over, implementing different community initiatives along the way.

Ryan said he hopes to offer internships to UTC business students, get involved in area schools teaching students about things like finances and saving money, as well as hold seminars to teach locals about insurance.

“It’s just the self-satisfaction of being able to make a positive difference in most of the people you come into contact with,” he said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about my family and my extended family in Chattanooga. I want to reach everybody.”

His wife said even she may want to join the Sharpe family business and become an agent some day. She may even give her husband more competition, she added, laughing.

“I’d love for her to be a part of this business,” Ryan laughed.