Photo above: Bill Campbell and Nancy Kopp interview for her job as state treasurer.
By Len Lazarick
It was a foregone conclusion that the Special Joint Legislative Committee to Select the State Treasurer would recommend that Nancy Kopp get a fourth four-year term in one of the most powerful jobs in state government.
Even the only other candidate interviewed by the committee, Bill Campbell, the Republican nominee for comptroller in the last two elections, expected that outcome.
But it didn’t happen without a little drama at the end of the hour-long meeting Wednesday night.
Republican Sen. George Edwards of Garrett County proposed that the committee not make a recommendation, but send both names to the joint session of the General Assembly next Wednesday. At that session, each lawmaker will vote in a secret ballot.
“I think both candidates are qualified,” Edwards said. “I think we should send both names.”
He was seconded by the other Republican senator on the 10-member committee, Sen. Addie Eckardt of Dorchester County.
“We have been charged with coming up with a recommendation,” said Sen. Nancy King.
“It is a non-partisan post,” Edwards said. “The treasurer has done a great job,” he conceded. But “it looks political.”
Edwards motion failed, and Senate co-chair Jim Rosapepe said, “I think we should follow the law.”
Turns out the Maryland code spells out the process, and says the committee shall recommend one person for the job, but all the qualified candidates will appear on the ballot.
“I agree with the spirit” of Edwards’ motion, Rosapepe said. “We have two qualified candidates.”
Campbell was CFO
Campbell’s resume includes positions as the chief financial officer for the U.S. Coast Guard, Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a budget twice the size of Maryland’s.
He predicted Maryland will be in “severe financial distress” in the “very near future.” He is particularly concerned about the under-funding of the state pension plan and retiree health insurance.
“It is unfair to the taxpayers and it is unfair to our teachers and employees,” Campbell said. “I think what we have now is unsustainable.”
Maryland state treasurer heads a small office that handles state debt, bond issues, management of public funds and the state’s self-insurance program for liability.
The treasurer is the third member of the Board of Public Works that votes on almost all state contracts over $25,000.
40 years of public service
Kopp served in the House of Delegates for 27 years representing Bethesda, and was considered one of the fiscal experts on state government before her election as treasurer in 2002. She serves as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the State Retirement and Pension System, and on the Board of Revenue Estimates.
Kopp told the committee she’s worked very hard to increase the transparency of the Board of Public Works and to communicate with legislators about projects in their districts.
The retirement system board is “very aware of the challenges of the pension fund” and she defended its investment performance.
Kopp said he hoped to make the state’s insurance program more electronic, and get it out of “the age of paper and telephones.”
Campbell and Kopp each spoke and answered questions for about 25 minutes.
In the end, the committee’s six Democrats voted to recommend Kopp and the three Republicans abstained.