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State Treasurer finalists picked in Riverton
Oct 23, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Gov. Matt Mead will name Joe Meyer's replacement by Friday.
Wyoming's Republican Party State Central Committee met in Riverton on Monday to select three candidates for state treasurer.
The finalists are accountant Bruce Brown, 54, who ran for state auditor in 2006 and 2010; Fulbright scholar Clark Stith, 51; and 55-year-old Mark Gordon, former director of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, who ran for U.S. House in 2008.
The committee's recommendations were sent to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Monday.
He is expected to meet with the finalists Wednesday and make a decision by Friday.
John Birbari, chairman of the Fremont County Republican Party and a member of the state central committee, said the Republicans had 15 days after the death of former treasurer Joe Meyer to pick a short list of replacement possibilities.
He said Riverton provided a central location for the meeting, which came two weeks after a regularly scheduled committee gathering in Thermopolis.
"The morning of that (Thermopolis) meeting was when Joe Meyer passed away," Birbari said. "As we were breaking up we were learning he had passed. ... So it was a pretty fast turnaround."
He was pleased with the outcome of Monday's event, which went smoothly, according to Birbari.
"I thought we had good, solid candidates. and we sent forward three very qualified people," he said. "Now it's up to the governor to pick."
The process to replace state officials is organized in Wyoming to maximize the public's representation in government, Birbari said, explaining that the state central committee includes three people from each county's Republican party. He added that each county party is elected by local residents.
"That's actually the grass roots, voting for their local neighbors," Birbari said. "So this is an example of that government closest to the people really being in action."
Committee members had the opportunity to ask questions of the 10 applicants for state treasurer who arrived Monday in Riverton.
According to published reports, the group included Kari Jo Gray, Mead's chief of staff; Robert Grady, a member of the steering committee of the Wyoming Business Alliance; Ed Prosser, a former state representative; Lars Lone of the Wyoming Policy Institute; Daniel Furphy, president of First Capital West Bankshares in Laramie; Janet Anderson, a retired ConocoPhillips employee; and John Allan Holtz, a former judge in Converse County.
In the afternoon, the 72-person committee voted to narrow the pool of candidates to five people -- Brown, Furphy, Stith, Gordon and Grady -- who underwent another round of questioning from county representatives before the final group of three was selected.
Stith described his fiscal policy as "very conservative," adding that he would try to cut the treasurer's budget by 15 percent. Stith also wants to invest as much money in the state's permanent mineral trust fund as possible.
"That's where our future is," Stith said.
He called it a "primary goal" to avoid the implementation of a personal state income tax in Wyoming. Outside of the treasurer's office, Stith said his position on the State Land and Investment Board will be of extreme importance, especially when it comes to multiple use of public property in Wyoming and funding for rural hospitals. He also advocated for user fees on Wyoming highways.
"Right now we're using the income out of the permanent mineral trust fund to subsidize highway construction," Stith said. "I think it makes much more sense to have a user fee (so) other funds like the mineral trust fund are used for improving the lives of citizens."
Brown talked about cuts to spending at the state level, which he prefers over other efforts to increase Wyoming's revenue.
"I still think there's a lot of fat out there that we can cut before we start diverting money from the permanent mineral trust fund," Brown said. "If we divert out of there it won't grow as much as it should, (and it's) integral to our state's operation."
He also mentioned negotiating lower fees for services from investment managers, suggesting that University of Wyoming students could be recruited to help reduce costs. On SLIB, he said he would base funding decisions on the potential for a return on investment.
Birbari asked Gordon about working with Mead.
"Since you'll owe your appointment to the governor, how will you maintain an independent voice?" Birbari asked.
Gordon said he would base his choices on conservative values and his belief that Wyoming citizens come first. He cited a disagreement he had with former Gov. Dave Freudenthal over water rights.
"The way I pursued the issue was to say the regulations were the regulations," Gordon said. "Wyoming's water was inviolate, and we needed to make sure we stood our ground and put Wyoming and Wyoming's regulators first. ... As a result I lost my position."
He said he wants to streamline the issuance of permits to energy companies so those businesses are more likely to work in Wyoming and pay severance taxes and mineral royalties to the state. He also wants to see more diverse industries in the state, though he said Wyoming doesn't have the best "mechanism" in place to provide financial support to local businesses.
"We need ... a mechanism, a treasurer that needs to be out there looking for ways to do that," Gordon said. "That's a big concern for me. ... We need to work on that."