'Solid' Choice for Arkansas Treasurer (Editorial)

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.