Job Description: Manages banking services for state government and invests short-term funds for local governments and tribes.
Term: Four years
The State Treasurer’s Office is in obvious need of reform. This race provides us with two candidates that are caring, capable and would likely do a good job: Democrat James B. Lewis and Republican Demesia Padilla. But one candidate is far superior in terms of experience and proven leadership.
Lewis, a native New Mexican, has held so many high-level positions in this state we can’t take the space to list them all. He’s a veteran military policeman with a master’s in public administration. He was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy under Clinton. He served as the city administrator for Rio Rancho and was the director of the Oil, Gas and Mineral Division with the Commission of Public Lands. He was a criminal investigator in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office and helped establish the white-collar crime unit. He was Gov. Bruce King’s chief of staff, and most recently served as Mayor Martin Chavez’ chief administrative officer and chief operating officer. His most relevant experience was two terms as Bernalillo County treasurer and one term as the state treasurer in 1985, during which time he was the president of the Western State Treasurers and the vice-president of the National State Treasurers. That’s a mouthful, and it’s only a slice of his experience.
Lewis had retired when he says he started getting phone calls from some state legislators and people in the Treasurer’s Office asking him to run in this election. Remembering how much he enjoyed his time as state treasurer, he decided to go for it and postpone retirement a while longer.
Other than bringing the same code of ethics to the office that Lewis is known for, he touts the fact that he’s conservative with money, which is good, considering that the Treasurer’s Office is ultimately responsible for $6 billion of our cash. If elected, he wants to institute a whistleblower program, review all the audits over the last four years and require that employees receive ethics training. The bottom line is Lewis is an exceptional public leader that we’d be lucky to have come in and scour the filth off that office.
Padilla is an admitted political novice. The licensed certified public accountant is smart, friendly, professional, motivated and well-intentioned. She says she wants to bring something fresh to state government and touts her independence. She wants voters to have more oversight on the financial dealings of the office and wants to bring transparency to the website—listing how much money is in the treasury and who the investment advisers are. She’s focused on strengthening morale in the office through team building, and has an idea to set up an independent investment council that’s disconnected from state government.
They’re all admirable goals, and she’s obviously a decent and sincere person. She might even do a good job in the office. But she’s still no match for Lewis, who gets our endorsement.