The West Virginia State Treasurer is one of the many ticket items on the ballot this year. The office manages $16 billion annually. It’s responsible for overseeing the state’s operating funds, monitoring the state’s debt and performing additional banking and accounting duties.
The West Virginia Office of the State Treasurer was established at the Constitutional Convention held in Wheeling in 1863 after West Virginia split from Virginia.
The two candidates seeking the seat this year are incumbent John Perdue, a Democrat, and former House of Delegates member Riley Moore, a Republican.
Democrat John Perdue has held the office of state Treasurer, or Chief Financial Officer, since 1996. He’s held the position longer than anyone in West Virginia’s history and is currently the second longest-serving state treasurer in the nation.
He said the people of West Virginia motivate him to keep running for the office.
“I’ve never forgotten that I work for the people of this state. And I will continue to do that as their treasurer, regardless of politics,” Purdue said. “It’s about your work ethic and what you can do to manage the assets of this state, and I think I’ve proven that.”
Early in his career, Perdue worked for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. He went on to work in the office of former Gov. Gaston Caperton. He said it was during the job with Caperton that he learned he really liked working with numbers and budgets.
“When I became state Treasurer, I realized I had a big job ahead of me in returning trust back to the treasurer’s office,” Perdue said. “And we started immediately working on that by putting professionalism into the office and the technology in the office to be able to manage the checkbook of the state.”
But he said he also feels very strongly about education issues. Perdue said that’s why he made it a priority to oversee a savings plan called SMART529. It’s a program designed to encourage families to save for college.
“The flexibility of that program gives you the opportunity to be able to go to technical education and become an expert in that and get the certification to be able to do that,” Perdue said. “You can use that money to buy the tools to be able to help with education.”
In his 24 years on the job, Perdue has also overseen other savings plans. One is for people with disabilities called WVABLE. Another is a financial education initiative called NetWorth and a budget simulation called “Get a Life.”
He’s hosted workshops and conferences to help West Virginians learn how to manage their financial assets. He’s returned more than $230 million in unclaimed property, and he heads the West Virginia Retirement Plus program.
It’s this track record, as Perdue puts it, that he’s hoping West Virginians will re-elect him for a seventh term.
“I think you stand on your record,” Perdue said. “I’m running on my record and what I’ve brought to the treasurer’s office – what I’ve brought to the people of the state of West Virginia.”
But Republican Riley Moore, who’s challenging Perdue on the ballot in November, thinks Perdue has moved too slowly on issues and has had long enough in the office.
Moore is running on three key areas: accountability, modernization, and transparency. He said the treasurer’s office should have term limits, similar to the office of governor or the president. By instituting term limits, Moore said, it will help spur change more frequently and bring innovative ideas to the office.
“I think that’s one of those things that is really good for transparency and accountability,” Moore said. “To have new blood, new ideas in the office and limit the amount of terms that an individual can serve in that capacity.”
Another major area for Moore is creating a savings account strictly to help those individuals who are graduating trade school or vocational programs and help them jump into the workforce. He calls this his Jump Start Savings Program.
Before entering public service, Moore was a welder while in college. It was this experience, he said, that opened his eyes to the needs of the working class. His Jump Start savings account would help individuals purchase major equipment for their career.
“People that are coming out of a trade, technical and community college, they could save money to buy tools, equipment, licenses and certifications in their trade or vocation,” Moore said. “Which I think would not only be prepared in terms of training, but we would have them equipped as well for the future.”
Moore said his program is different from the SMART529 plan, in that people will be able to save for tools and equipment for a job rather than for school.
“I think West Virginia is so well-suited for a program like this,” Moore said. “And I think we could demonstrate to the rest of the country what happens when we put a focus on the working people.”
Moore also said he’s suited for the job of treasurer after his work in the West Virginia House of Delegates where he served for three state Legislative sessions from 2016 to 2018.
While in the Legislature, Moore spearheaded the creation of the State Police Forensic Laboratory Fund. He was also a major supporter of medical cannabis access in West Virginia, which was approved by the Legislature in 2017. Moore said that program has yet to launch and claims Perdue’s office delayed the selection of a financial institution to handle banking for the medical cannabis industry.
“That is what I want to change in that office,” Moore said. “We’re going to move faster. We’re going to modernize that office. We’re going to be more transparent about what we’re doing, and that is why we need term limits to put pressure on people to perform within a certain given time period, not an indefinite one.”
Whether Moore can push his ideas for the office – when it comes to the banking aspect of medical cannabis or any of the other programs administered by the treasurer’s office – all depends on him unseating Perdue.
The race for state Treasurer, like all others in the general election, will be sorted out by voters as ballots come in through Nov. 3.