This year promises to be an exciting election year. There are a ton of candidates running across the state headlined by an open governor's race and perhaps the toughest election for Russ Feingold in 12 years. But there are other statewide races too, and one of them is for the State Treasurer. Republican candidate Scott Feldt, a former aid to former State Treasurer Jack Voight and Rock County Board member was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about this important, yet often overlooked office.
LiB: What made you decide to run for State Treasurer?
Scott Feldt, Candidate for Treasurer: I am running for State Treasurer because I see the office going in the wrong direction. I read the stories about the State Treasurer's office involved in questionable hiring practices involving the state's college savings program, the Treasurer attending a conference while thousands of unclaimed property requests are left unprocessed, and the hiring of family members. These stories have proven to me that the current State Treasurer does not possess the skills needed to run the office. This is not about partisanship. This is about effectiveness. The office has important duties that need someone with the necessary skills and experience. The State Treasurer's office administers programs that involve BILLIONS of dollars. The citizens deserve a Treasurer with the skills and experience needed to run the office properly. Again, this is not about partisanship. This is about effectiveness.
LiB: The obvious question you need to answer for voters is: Why are you the best candidate?
SF: I am the most qualified candidate for State Treasurer because I have the right mix of skills and experience that the office needs. First, I know how the office operates. I was the Executive Assistant to the former State Treasurer for over 7 years. This is why former State Treasurers Jack Voight and Cate Zeuske endorse me and my campaign. I can run the office on day one. Second, I understand budgets and the need for fiscal responsibility. I was a county board supervisor for 7 years. As Vice Chair of the Finance Committee in Rock County, I helped shape and approve budgets that totaled over $100 million each of those 7 years. Third, I know how the State Treasurer can help promote economic development. For the last 5 years I have worked as an economic developer who has helped recruit and retain businesses in three different states.
LiB: The State Treasurer is not what you would call a "high-profile" job. How do you plan to raise the profile of the office?
SF: The best way to raise the profile of the office is to run it effectively. I need to bring respect back to the office. In addition, I intend to educate the public about the various duties of the State Treasurer. The Treasurer deals with local governments through the Local Government Investment Pool, environmental issues as a Commissioner of Public Lands, funding libraries through the State Trust Fund Loan program the college savings (EdVest) program, and the return of unclaimed funds to their rightful owners. These are just some of the issues the State Treasurer is involved in.
I also believe the State Treasurer should be involved in educating the public about state financial and economic issues. The Treasurer can provide WI taxpayers information on topics like the state budget process, how the state issues debt, and how the state invests your money.
LiB: With the excitement of an open seat for the governor's office and a potentially competitive US Senate race, the State Treasurer's race probably won't get a lot attention - and usually doesn't. How do you plan to cut through the noise and get out your message?
SF: I agree that the State Treasurer's office rarely gets attention. This is unfortunate because the office has important duties that involves billions of dollars. The Treasurer's race is a state wide race, and to effectively convey one's views on important issues is incredibly expensive, involving millions of dollars. As a candidate, I will do my best to identify important issues and seek innovative ways to get my message out. One of these ways is to utilize venues like this one. The internet can be an effective communication tool. In addition, I will try to capture as much free media by identifying issues and articulating them in such a manner that traditional media will decide to cover them.
LiB: The economy and budget problems are sure to be major issues this November. What can the Treasurer do to help the state's business climate and keep spending in check?
SF: That's a two part question. I'll start first with business climate. I have been involved in community and economic development for over 5 years. I have witnessed first hand what communities have done to attract companies and development. in addition, I had the great fortune to work for Ken Hendricks as his assistant. Ken was named Inc. Magazine's "Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2006. I was able to sit next to this great man and watch how he decided what companies to invest in, what communities, and understand the reasons for his decisions. As State Treasurer, I cannot decide tax policy or modify regulations, but I can be part of a team that promotes our state and helps recruit businesses to WI. Personal relationships are extremely important in economic development and I am willing to assist the Governor, Dept. of Commerce, and Forward WI in their efforts to help our current businesses expand as well as welcome new businesses to WI.
As for government spending, the State Treasurer is often seen as the top financial official for the state. Yet the State Treasurer has no role in the state budget process. As State Treasurer, I will try to use my role as a state wide elected official to educate the public on state financial matters. An informed public will be better equipped to question the Governor and legislature regarding state spending and budget priorities. The Treasurer can be a financial watchdog for WI taxpayers, making them aware of issues that might concern them, and how state government decisions affect them financially.
LiB: Finally, do you see the role of the Treasurer as a part of the executive team or as an independent voice?
SF: I believe the State Treasurer must take on both roles. There are many issues where the State Treasurer can be part of a team to achieve a common goal - - tourism and economic development are just two examples. I believe the State Treasurer should work with the Governor and the state legislature on issues where there is agreement.
Still, the State Treasurer is an independently elected office that answers to the people. If there are issues where there is disagreement, especially those issues that the Treasurer has a role in, the Treasurer has the prerogative to make his views known. This may occur regardless of the political party of the Governor or the legislature. The State Treasurer must be able act independently in the best interest of the citizens of this state.