'Solid' Choice for Arkansas Treasurer (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, Jun. 3, 2013 12:00 am  

Gov. Mike Beebe coaxing Charles Robinson out of retirement to take over the helm of the state treasurer's office until the next election was a solid move. (Photo by Mauren Kennedy)

The adjective that keeps being used to describe Arkansas’ new state treasurer, Charles Robinson, is “solid.” We like the sound of that, mainly because it’s a word that was never used to describe his disgraced predecessor, Martha Shoffner.

But we can’t say that we worried much about Shoffner’s qualifications before a legislative audit last year because, really, how much damage could she do? And 20/20 hindsight on some investment decisions notwithstanding, there’s still no evidence that she did any real damage to the state’s finances. (To its reputation — that’s another thing entirely.)

But the Treasurer’s Office does have work to do and responsibilities to perform, and it is reassuring to know that Gov. Beebe picked a pro to pick up the pieces and put them back together. Robinson is not just an experienced manager and a career public servant; his 34 years in legislative audit — 28 of them as the division head — have given him uncommon insight into the inner workings of every part of state government.

Robinson also has a reputation for being scrupulously nonpartisan, apolitical even. And that sounds good right now, too. In fact, it makes us wish that Arkansas, like a dozen or so other states, would take the job of choosing a treasurer away from the voters. In Arkansas, the job of treasurer is not that of chief financial officer. It’s more like a chief investment officer, only under a lot more restrictions. This is a job for the Department of Finance & Administration, not for a penny-ante politico looking for a place to rack up more years in the state pension plan.

Amending the state constitution is serious business, but creating a more professional government is one of the best reasons we can think of to do so.

 

 

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