ENDORSEMENT: Pick a state treasurer whose allegiance is to Colorado, not his personal fortune — Dave Young


Our long-held position that the job of state treasurer should be changed to an appointed rather than elected position makes it easy for voters to choose a candidate.

Who would hire someone for a $68,500-a-year, full-time position who tells you right up front they’re going to keep their other job?

Not us. But Republican candidate for state treasurer Brian Watson, a reported billionaire investor wants to do just that.

State treasurer is an obscure elected job that, arguably, has little power or real responsibility. In theory, the treasurer handles Colorado’s sizable tax-dollar investments. In reality, a staff of professionals and consultants carry out the highly regimented, regulated and mundane business of investment without much actual direction from the elected treasurer. The job is not that of a freewheeling stock baron gambling with the public pot.

In addition, the treasurer gets a seat on the public retirement fund board and hands back overpayment of taxes and money left in old bank accounts.

It’s long been remarkable that this low-level, ho-hum job has been a launching pad for higher office. Former governors Roy Romer, Bill Owens and Congressman Mike Coffman all served time in the treasurer’s office.

The job isn’t completely a no-harm, no-foul proposition, however. The one dangerous thing a treasurer can do is cloud the position with conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety.

That eliminates Watson from the running.

Watson is a commercial real estate investor and owner of Northstar Commercial Partners with a reported $1.3 billion in assets across numerous states. He’s been up front about saying that he’ll keep his job as Northstar board director if he’s elected treasurer, although he’ll let others take care of daily Northstar duties.

No. Colorado is just now getting rid of another wealthy state treasurer, Walker Stapleton, who fumbled his so-called blind trust and ran his family business while working as the state treasurer.

While Watson has said he won’t take a salary from the state, it would be hard to prove he deserved one. While there’s not huge matters the state treasurer could undermine, Watson would have no credibility as an elected official whose priority lies in guarding his own wealth instead of that of the public.

If Watson wants to place his assets in an actual blind trust and step down from other jobs, especially those that pose a potential conflict of interest or the appearance of one, then he becomes a serious contender for a job that hardly seems worth the effort.

The serious part about Colorado elected officials is that voters and the media must hold these candidates to high and indelible standards. This position is for a public servant, not a bored, part-timer who’ll work for free.

It boggles the mind that Republicans had two other qualified candidates they turned back for the job at the June primary who offered pretty much the same ideas without the deal-breaker baggage.

The state treasurer must either work for the state or their other job. Not both.

Democrat Dave Young, a retired public school teacher, college prof and two-term state legislator says this would be his only job.

A moderate Greeley Democrat who personally knows the difficulty caused by an unstable state public retirement fund, is amply qualified to run the office and advise fellow PERA board members.

Young is deeply knowledgable about state finance. He sat on the powerful Colorado Joint Budget Committee and was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

He’s a known quantity at the state Legislature and well-respected by fellow lawmakers in both houses and from both sides of the aisle.

His track record, experience and commitment to the job, as his only job, make Young the easy choice in this race.