Wyoming will have a new state treasurer by Friday.
The Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee will vet 10 candidates for state Treasurer Joe Meyer’s position on Monday in Riverton and will narrow the field to three applicants from which Gov. Matt Mead will choose. The candidates will give nominating speeches and field questions from members of the committee at the meeting. Mead will interview the candidates on Wednesday and must appoint a successor to Meyer by Friday.
There have been no public debates to discuss candidates for the position since Meyer died of cancer on Oct. 6. The meeting on Monday is the first public discussion on the issue.
“When could you have done it?” said Tammy Hooper, chairwoman of the Wyoming Republican Party. The party wanted to give family, friends and Wyomingites time to grieve the loss, and it’s following the same model that was used after U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., died near the end of his term in 2007, she said.
Additionally, Meyer’s memorial service in the state Capitol and funeral were delayed until Thursday and Friday, respectively, to allow focus on his distinguished alumnus award from the University of Wyoming during homecoming weekend on Oct. 12-13.
The treasurer does more than balance the state’s checkbook. There is the Investments and Banking Division, which manages the $15 billion the state has available to invest, and the Unclaimed Property Division. The chosen candidate will sit on seven boards and commissions: State Loan and Investment, Land Commissioners, State Building, Wyoming Community Development Authority, Deposits, Wyoming Retirement System and State Canvassing.
Some of the candidates have worked with or are currently working for Mead. Candidate Kari Jo Gray is his chief of staff and has been friends with Mead for more than 25 years. She will resign if chosen by Mead. Candidate Robert Grady traveled with him to China and has served as a pro bono adviser.
The governor is not endorsing any candidate and is confident “chairman Hooper will lead a process that is fair and open,” Mead spokesman Renny MacKay wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune.
“Given the fact Wyoming is a small state it is almost a certainty that one or more of the names that come to Governor Mead will be a friend and someone he has known for years,” MacKay wrote.
There are some “outstanding individuals” who have applied to fill the “arduous task” of replacing Meyer, said Bill Novotny, chairman of candidate recruitment for the state GOP’s central committee.
Candidates have backgrounds in finance, politics and the energy industry. Many have deep roots in Wyoming with backgrounds in ranching and farming.
“I want to win, but when I look around with who I am competing with, nobody loses. No matter who wins, the state wins,” said Janet Anderson, a candidate and former litigator with Conoco.
She is a cancer survivor who wants to come out of retirement to “keep fighting back against the folks who are trying to turn Wyoming into a state park.” Her expertise is in natural gas and she thinks her background will help her “manage the great work that’s been done” by Meyer and his staff.
The state’s energy revenues keep the state’s finances strong, and maintaining them as a source of revenue is critical “to be able to retain what we love about Wyoming: open air and open space,” Gray said.
Mark Gordon owns Merlin Ranch in Buffalo and resigned from the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank to apply for the position. If appointed, his goal is to bring more transparency to the office. A platform issue for Gordon is building a closer relationship with the “Wyoming Business Council and other entities to employ the great opportunity we have to add value to the products we sell in the state,” he said.
The State Loan and Investment Board is of key interest to candidate Ed Prosser of Cheyenne. He was “born, raised and educated” in Wyoming and wants to make sure that cities, towns and communities receive their fair shares from the board.
A “protective and conservative approach” to maximizing long-term investment revenue and increasing the dividends on the state’s investments is Prosser’s No. 2 priority as a candidate.
“Number one is protecting the [state’s investment principle],” he said.
While other states are raising taxes and increasing regulations, Wyoming is in a unique position to connect with the rest of the world and attract jobs and be a home for growth, said Grady, a private equity banker with Cheyenne Capital in Jackson.
“I’ve been thinking about this problem for a number of years,” he said.
If appointed, the first thing candidate Daniel Furphy will do is investigate the costs the state pays for management investment fees. RV Kuhns and Associates is the state’s fund-to-fund investment manager. Kuhns is “an expensive way to manage,” said Gordon.
Candidate Clark Stith agrees.
Stith believes he can reduce the fund management fees by 20 percent. His goal is to not let the Legislature “raid the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.” He would give preference to investments that can grow the trust — not preference to big energy companies looking to use the government’s money.
Furphy said several people encouraged him to run for treasurer, including state Sen. Phil Nicholas.
He said his “Wyoming nature” has him in tune with the “issues, ethics and economy” in the state.
Candidate John Allan Holtz thinks the money available for investment may be constrainted by the Wyoming Revised Code. Laws oblige the fund to remain in fixed investments and “may not be a good thing if it keeps us from an opportunity to make safer investments,” he said.
In light of the global economic instability, Holtz said, he is “afraid the position of treasurer will be different than it has been in the past.”
Candidate Bruce Brown said his committee work will be “making sure we get the most bang for our buck” in all of the state’s investments. A balance of recreation, grazing leases and resource independence will be a way to “maximize investments” and “invest in infrastructure that goes beyond bricks and mortar,” said Brown.
Candidate Lars Lone is the youngest candidate and just returned home from duty with the Navy. He has no background in business or finance but “has a leg up on the other candidates because in the military we are put into a new job every two years so I was constantly learning new jobs — it’s a fire hose to the face.”
He said his youth would help to reinvigorate the old guard in Wyoming.
“I don’t see it as a problem, I see it as a chance to excel,” he said.