Over the years, we've have expressed concern about a variety of issues relating to the office of State Treasurer. Chief among those concerns is the lack of professional qualifications needed to hold the office. As a result, election to the office is generally little more than a political popularity contest. And the results can be telling.
Both long-time Treasurer Marjory Ruth Moon, a Democrat, and current Treasurer Ron Crane, a Republican, faced accusations of mismanagement that may have cost the state millions of dollars. Neither had any significant experience in financial management prior to taking office.
We had hoped that the Legislature might have taken the opportunity, with the retirement of Treasurer Crane, to add a set of professional qualifications for individuals seeking the office. Or perhaps even eliminate the elective office and replace it with a panel of volunteer professionals similar to the highly successful boards of the Idaho Endowment Fund and the Public Employees Retirement System.
Since neither of those things happened, we are turning to the professional qualifications of the three candidates running in the Republican primary for Treasurer: Julie Ellsworth, Vicky McIntyre, and Tom Kealey.
Ellsworth is a former Idaho legislator from Ada County. She has an undergraduate degree in education from BYU and has worked as a teacher, legislator and lobbyist. She has no significant experience in either business or financial management.
McIntyre serves as Ada County treasurer. She has bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration from Boise State University. While she is a Republican, she has often found herself at odds with the three Republican County commissioners. Most recently the commissioners have asked her to relinquish her county issued credit cards due to allegations of misuse, including the charging of personal items on the county issued cards.
The third candidate is Tom Kealey, who owns the Treasure Valley Chicago Connection pizza businesses with his wife, Joy. Kealey has a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance from the University of Washington and a master's in business administration from Harvard. He was chief financial officer with Morrison Knudsen and is a retired CPA who served 14 years on the Endowment Fund Investment Board, which manages over $2 billion in state endowment assets.
Tom Kealey’s academic background, extensive business experience and long-time membership on the Endowment Fund Investment Board make him perhaps the best qualified individual to ever seek the office of treasurer. This is a job that requires professional training and experience, which Trumps political experience or campaign polish.
Since there is no Democratic candidate, whoever wins the Republican primary will be the next Idaho treasurer.
One last point: Should Kealey win, we urge him to immediately begin an examination that includes the organizational structure of the Treasurer’s Office, the qualifications for effectively holding the office and the treasurer’s duties and responsibilities. This should be followed by a report to the Legislature along with recommended changes in Idaho law and, perhaps, even to the state constitution.