Meet the Republican & Democratic Candidates for W.Va. Treasurer
While the races for president and for governor seem to be getting all of the attention this election cycle, all five of West Virginia’s Constitutional Offices are also on the ballot. In the race for Treasurer, Democrat John Perdue is the long-time incumbent, holding the position for 20 years. He’s running a race against political newcomer Republican Ann Urling who brings 30 years of community banking to the table. West Virginia Public Broadcasting brings this look at the campaigns for the office.
Ann Urling is new to the world of politics, but not new to money and numbers. Urling is the senior Vice President of Summit Community Bank headquartered in Moorefield, but she and her family live in Charleston, where she’s currently a commercial lender for the bank.
“As a banker, one thing that I have learned is it’s important to have a fresh set of eyes; look at the money and look at the way things are being done," Urling said, "and sometimes things aren’t changed that need to be changed just to be more modern and more efficient.”
Urling says it’s her “fresh set of eyes” and her experience in banking that make her qualified for the job as state Treasurer.
Incumbent John Perdue, who’s held office since 1996, argues the system is already in a good place, because he’s brought transparency and hired people who do the job well.
“I think the proof of what I’ve done with the treasurer’s office of bringing the professionals in there; the accountants, the CPAs that manage the taxpayers’ money, and make sure that we do not lose any money. I think we have set the examples that’s very good; we’re always looking at other opportunities to improve upon that,” Perdue said.
Urling has criticized Perdue on the campaign trail, though, for a lack of transparency in his office. She points to a website run by the state of Ohio that allows citizens to explore the spending of individual state agencies. Urling says that kind of access would keep the office accountable.
“If you want to see where your taxpayers’ dollars are going, where the sales tax is actually going to pay for paving of the roads, all of that is going towards that. You can drill it down to the point that you can actually see the check that is cut,” she explained. But Perdue says the state already has the exact same website. It’s called transparencywv.com.
“We have an icon on the website, where you can click on the transparency, and you can go to any agency in state government and go and track any money that’s being spent in state government, and we do that by working together with the Governor’s office and the Auditor’s office, because we’re all together on transparency.”
The next Treasurer of West Virginia will inevitably have to deal with the state’s lack of revenues. Over the past four years, the office’s budget has been cut by 32 percent. Perdue says continued cuts likely mean the next treasurer will have to layoff employees or cut services.
“If we continue to cut, and you continue to layoff professionals, you’ve got to decide what are you gonna cut? Which accountant are you gonna take out of the treasurer’s office, which CPA are you gonna take out of the treasurer’s office; I hope we don’t get to that point that we make that decision,” he noted.
Urling says the Treasurer’s Office should consider cutting employees, though. She would start with the public relations team, which she says Perdue puts too much time and money into.
“I personally don’t think it’s the best use of resources for the state Treasurer himself, and his public relations team to hand deliver checks to people for their unclaimed property," Urling said, "Not only is there a big public relations team, while our state’s in a budget crisis basically, he’s got eight top people there in his office now.”
Urling says there are too many high level employees in the office taking home large salaries, but Perdue says those professionals make up an effective team and says you need the best people running state government.
“I’m not gonna lose the best that I have in the treasurer's office cause I deal with that constantly all the time; if you don’t pay on a competitive scale, you’re gonna lose that person to the private sector," Perdue said, "I pay well, because I believe that having the integrity and honesty in that office, and having the checks and balances in place, and having the best people is good government and the best government we can have to pay for the future of this state.”
One thing both candidates do agree on, though, is the importance of the educational programs offered through the treasurer’s office.
Perdue says he’s proud of services they provide like SMART529, which helps families save for college.
“It allows parents and grandparents to save for their children’s education, get a dollar for dollar tax deduction on their state income tax by investing in that, and I think that’s very important for the future of this state and economic development," Perdue said, "because we are getting kids to realize and start dreaming about what they want to be at a very young age and parents realizing they gotta set that money aside.”
While Urling agrees that the college savings program is important, she says she would expand educational outreach efforts by creating more programs that target young people.
“I have a concern about the education of our young folks and teaching them how to do a budget and how to balance their checkbook, and how not to have tons of student loan debt," she said, "and I think it’s important that we do some basic education of just basic financial principles for all of our children; really starting in grade school.”
What Perdue and Urling want voters to know:
In the race, Urling casts herself as the candidate of change.
“You know, we’ve been doing things the same way for 83 years, it’s time for a change," Urling explained, "and we can’t keep voting the same people in who are part of this political machine that keep doing the same things over and over and expect a different result. It’s time to try something different and see what happens.”
Perdue says he’s made plenty of changes during his time in office, pulling together a team of professionals that work efficiently and effectively under his leadership.
“I think they should vote for me, because they know I return the integrity and honesty and transparency to the treasurer’s office. I’m a proven leader with a college savings program, unclaimed property, and making sure that for the first time in the history of this state, we’re triple rated in the finances of the bank of state government," Perdue said, "I’m very proud of that; I’m going to continue to work for them and protect their money; the taxpayers’ money; the bank of state government.”
Early voting begins in West Virginia on October 26. Election Day is November 8.