Republican state Sen. Mike Baumgartner is looking to move into Spokane County politics as treasurer.
But local Democrat David Green, an accountant, also has designs on the job, which is being vacated by Rob Chase, who is running for county commissioner in the November general election.
Family? How long living in the area? I’m married with four very young children. My wife Eleanor and I met in 2009 while working together on a U.S. State Department-funded counternarcotics team in Helmand, Afghanistan. I was born and grew up in Eastern Washington as the son of two educators. My father spent 40 years as a forestry professor at Washington State University and my mother taught kindergarten for 43 years. I graduated from Pullman High and studied economics and math at WSU (B.A. 1999) where I was also a Tom Foley Scholar.
Why did you want to file for candidacy? For the past eight years I’ve served as a trusted and effective state senator working for the people of Eastern Washington in Olympia. Now I want to continue to serve the public and do so closer to home (so I can spend more time with my family). I’ve enjoyed working in both the private and public sectors, but my work has felt most meaningful when I’ve felt like a team working for something bigger than myself. I felt that way when I was a volunteer teaching in Mozambique, Africa, after college, and when I left my private-sector job to go to the Iraq Surge as a state department officer. As Spokane treasurer, I hope to serve the public by playing a role in making our community and our economy stronger for future generations.
What are your goals for the treasurer's office over the next four years? The Spokane County Treasurer’s Office plays an important role in safeguarding the taxpayers’ hard-earned money and helping make sure that public financing earns strong investment returns. I also plan to use the position to advocate for better fiscal policy in local government and to serve as a watch-dog for wasteful spending. A key part of that is improving transparency for the people of Spokane County. Taxpayers should know where every dollar they contribute goes in local government. As such, I’d like to institute a new website similar to the “Ohio Checkbook” model, which is a great tool for public transparency. I also really enjoy holding Town Halls and plan to interact with the public on a regular basis.
What, in your mind, is the biggest issue facing Spokane County in the immediate future? The biggest issue facing Spokane County is to continue to grow jobs and our economy in a responsible way. Too many of our young people have to leave Spokane to find jobs. As treasurer, I hope to contribute to a strong economy by fighting wasteful spending and high tax increases so that employers have the confidence to move here and small business owners can thrive, innovate and expand.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? It’s not really a surprise, but people continue to be very concerned about property crime and homelessness. They do not feel that these challenges are being properly addressed by current local elected officials.
People also feel that property tax levy rates are high, without having a good understanding of exactly how they are set, or how the money is spent.
What differences separate you from your opponent? My opponent lacks experience in both public sector finance and investment, and he has not served in public office. Experience and qualifications matter. I’ve served as an economics officer for the U.S. State Department and while Vice chairman of the Senate Budget Committee helped write a massive $34 billion budget. The public knows it can trust me to successfully work across the aisle and to get the job done.
Family? How long living in the area? Married. I’ve lived in Spokane since February 2005, when Moss Adams LLP (Spokane’s largest accounting firm) recruited me to join them in Spokane as a tax partner. Prior to moving to Spokane, while working with two of the Big Four accounting firms I’ve resided in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Having lived in a number of other cities, I can easily say that the Spokane area is a great community in which to live and work.
Why did you want to file for candidacy? I filed to run because it’s important for someone with hands-on financial experience to serve as Spokane County Treasurer. This is especially true since the county’s chief deputy treasurer, Mike Volz, if re-elected to serve the 6th Legislative District as their representative, will be in Olympia for a long (105 day) legislative session in 2019.
Having been a Certified Public Accountant since 1984, holding the Certified Financial Planner designation and having passed the Series 65 Uniform Investment Advisor Law Examination, I’m the only candidate in the treasurer’s race with the accounting and financial skillsets needed to effectively fulfill the duties of Spokane County Treasurer.
If I’m elected treasurer, it won’t matter whether the chief deputy treasurer is in Olympia for a long or short legislative session. The Treasurer’s office will be in good hands, supervised by someone with a lifetime of accounting and financial experience. We can’t take chances when it comes to managing Spokane County’s money.
What are your goals for the treasurer's office over the next four years? I had the opportunity to attend the Washington State Association of County Treasurers’ summer conference in June and was able to meet treasurers and deputy treasurers from 31 of the state’s 39 counties as well as the state treasurer and the deputy state treasurer. I also met representatives from the county’s banking relationship and several vendors and service providers doing business with the treasurer’s office.
If elected as Spokane County Treasurer, these relationships will assist me in reviewing best practices for county treasurers. I’ll then work with staff in the office to determine whether those best practices can be implemented in our county.
Specifically, I’d like to explore alternative payment methods for paying real estate taxes (for taxpayers not making real estate tax payments through their mortgage companies).
And I think we can do a better job of investing surplus funds for the benefit of the county, school districts, and the various boards and commissions that the treasurer’s office provides investment services to --- consistent with the cash flow needs of the county and entities and, of course, consistent with state law and the county’s investment policy statement. The county’s not been very transparent with its stakeholders on the investment side --- and I’d like to improve on that.
I’d also like to work closely with the other two elected officials that share space on the first floor of the courthouse -- the county auditor and the county assessor. We should be good neighbors and work for the common good.
What, in your mind, is the biggest issue facing Spokane County in the immediate future? The biggest issue facing the treasurer’s office in the immediate future is recent investment performance. It’s not good news.
Since June of 2017, the rates of return on the Spokane County Investment Pool (managed by the Spokane County treasurer for the benefit of the county, local school districts, and a variety of local boards and commissions) have lagged behind the state treasurer’s Local Government Investment Pool (managed by the state treasurer for the benefit of local governmental units).
And while the differences in rates of return between the county’s SCIP and the state’s LGIP were reasonably small through November 2017, they have started to creep up over the last eight months, as interest rates have gone up.
Currently the Spokane County Investment Pool is trailing the state’s LGIP by a bit more than .40 percent (which doesn’t sound like much except there’s over $1.2 billion in the Spokane County Investment Pool as of the end of August 2018). With that much money in the Spokane County Investment Pool, the differential amounts to about $5 million on an annualized basis.
As Spokane County treasurer, I’ll use my financial background and investment skillsets to fulfill the treasurer’s duties of safeguarding taxpayer money and investing public funds wisely.
And I’ll let the county commissioners and the leaders of the school districts, fire districts, water commissions, etc. determine what they might be able to do with a little bit of extra investment funds generated by the treasurer’s office.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? People are surprised that anybody can run for an office such as Spokane County Treasurer, whether they have (or don’t have) the specialized financial knowledge and skillsets needed to perform the duties of the office effectively. And they are surprised that candidates need to declare a party affiliation to run for Spokane County treasurer, since it is a task-focused office and it doesn’t make policy.
What differences separate you from your opponent? There are three differences: Commitment, Passion and Ability (“CPA”).
Commitment. I’ve signed a pledge to serve the entire four-year term as Spokane County Treasurer. I won’t accept appointment to, nor will I run for, any other federal, state, or local office during the four-year term. My opponent has refused to sign that pledge to you. As a first-time candidate, my only goal is to serve Spokane County as your treasurer. That’s it.
Passion. As an accountant, I’ve passionately served tax clients and community organization boards (such as the Fox Theater, Spokane Symphony, and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture) using my accounting and financial skillsets. I will bring my passion for client and public service to the next level by serving as your county treasurer.
Ability. To effectively run the Spokane County Treasurer’s Office, financial skillsets matter. The Spokane County Treasurer is ultimately responsible for all of the financial activity performed in the office. Without independent financial skillsets and investment knowledge, how can the county treasurer review the performance of the chief deputy treasurer or the finance deputy? (Both of those roles report directly to the county treasurer.) If you wouldn’t hire a politician to fix a leaky pipe in your home, why would you hire a politician to manage, handle, and invest Spokane County’s money?
As a first-time candidate for office who is only interested in serving as Spokane County Treasurer, I ask you to remember “CPA” when voting. Commitment. Passion. Ability.
I humbly ask for your vote.