Del. Kopp tapped for treasurer

Lopsided panel vote virtually ensures legislative approval

`She has the expertise'

Dixon is retiring from powerful post because of illness

February 01, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

A special committee of state legislators voted overwhelmingly last night to nominate Del. Nancy K. Kopp as Maryland's next treasurer, all but assuring her election when the entire General Assembly makes the choice next week.

"I think Nancy Kopp will be an outstanding treasurer," said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a Baltimore Democrat who co-chaired the nominating committee. "She has the expertise, she knows how to manage and supervise, and she'll get better and better with each passing month."

The joint committee of senators and delegates was voting to recommend a replacement for Richard N. Dixon, who announced he would retire as of today because of worsening diabetes. All 188 members of the legislature will take a final vote Tuesday.

Kopp got 24 out of 28 votes. Three were cast for Del. Pauline H. Menes, a beloved House veteran who was backed by her Prince George's colleagues, and one vote went to H. Robert Hergenroeder, a former delegate and state banking commissioner.

With a smudge of congratulatory lipstick on her left cheek, Kopp said afterward that she was overwhelmed by the margin and looks forward - if elected - to her new duties: overseeing Maryland's checkbooks, representing the legislature on the three-member Board of Public Works and helping manage the state pension fund.

"I do not intend to be under the thumb of anybody, and I intend to work well with everybody," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Yesterday's hearing and voting session had the air of a formality. Law requires the state to advertise the position for at least a week before the hearings. Nineteen people submitted applications.

But Kopp and Menes were the only sitting legislators who applied and so were the only candidates given a chance of success. Because each legislator gets a vote, the 141-member House of Delegates essentially controls the election's outcome, giving treasurer candidates who come from House ranks a great advantage.

The session lasted less than an hour, and legislators had no questions for 10 of the 11 candidates who showed up to be interviewed. There was only one question for Kopp: Would she, a Bethesda resident, be sensitive to the needs of rural counties? "Sir, I will," Kopp replied to Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican.

The clipped pace was likely a disappointment to some of the interviewees. Many had stunning resumes, such as the Montgomery County applicant who had been assistant treasurer at the Nasdaq stock market. Another applicant, from Ellicott City, had presided over the bank accounts of major health care and insurance companies. Others included a man from Annapolis who said he was a math teacher looking for a career change and an Army veteran who manages a check-cashing company.

Committee members explained later that there was no need to ask questions because they had already spoken individually to the only serious candidates.

A member of the House of Delegates since 1974, Kopp, 58, has spent all the years since in the House Appropriations Committee, where she has become known as one of the few experts on Maryland's budget. She also chairs a committee that monitors state spending limits.

Kopp spent much of yesterday preparing herself for the treasurer's position, one of the highest in state government. She reviewed an audit of the treasurer's office and had a lengthy meeting with Dixon about the state of his office. One immediate problem is insufficient data processing of the state's accounts, which can cause expensive accounting delays, she said.

Kopp also met with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who with the comptroller and treasurer make up the powerful Board of Public Works, which approves major state contracts.

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