Picking a new treasurer Key state post: Job calls for strong financial background, cautious pragmatism.

January 16, 1996

WHEN STATE legislators choose a new treasurer this week, they should pick someone with the right kind of background and temperament. The last two treasurers, Lucille D. Maurer and William S. James, were pragmatic and cautious members of the Board of Public Works, but they initially lacked any understanding of how to invest billions of dollars in state revenues -- a key part of the treasurer's job.

This time, lawmakers need not worry about that shortcoming. The leading candidate, Del. Richard N. Dixon of Carroll County, knows finances. He's been a stockbroker for over 25 years and has focused his 13-year legislative career on budgetary and fiscal concerns. Safely investing capital at a solid rate of return has been his livelihood.

That kind of professional background makes Mr. Dixon well suited for the state treasurer's job. Legislative leaders praise him for his moderation and fairness and for his common-sense conservatism when it comes to fiscal matters. He has chaired the legislature's Joint Budget and Audit Committee and as chairman of the Joint Committee on Pensions sponsored a major rewrite of state pension laws.

The next treasurer must not only know the intricacies of public financing and investing but serve as a policymaker on the Board of Public Works. This is the panel that makes decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars on state contracts. Board members need to approach the task from a statewide perspective.

The board also should have some geographic balance to reflect regional points of view. In this regard, Mr. Dixon would fit in. Comptroller Louis Goldstein has for decades reflected rural concerns; Gov. Parris Glendening brings a Washington-area perspective, and Mr. Dixon would present the Baltimore-area viewpoint.

Some lawmakers may find Mr. Dixon too conservative. Others may try to play the gender game and vote for Del. Paulene Menes of Prince George's County. We are more concerned, though, with finding a treasurer who can represent the Baltimore region, has solid financial credentials and has displayed a leadership role on statewide fiscal matters.

fTC That pretty much describes Richard Dixon. He has what it takes to fill the void left by the departure of Mrs. Maurer as state treasurer.

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