The citizen treasurers

Dixon and Kopp: Maryland's good fortune includes talented public servants in complex high office.

February 05, 2002

MEMBERS OF the General Assembly pride themselves on being citizen legislators: teachers, firefighters, doctors, housewives, lawyers and others who come to the task of making laws with knowledge of the issues they shape.

Two excellent examples of that tradition now pass each other in the office of state treasurer: Richard N. Dixon, a former member of the House of Delegates from Carroll County who resigned recently for health reasons, and his successor, Nancy K. Kopp, a House member from Montgomery County.

Mr. Dixon leaves office with a few bruises, having presided over the state's employee pension program during the recent stock market downturn. That program's recent losses should not overshadow his career accomplishments: He brought a new awareness of the stock market to his job - and the pension fund grew rapidly with him as chief steward.

As a delegate, he saved the pension system almost single-handedly. A stockbroker as well as a legislator, he knew ruinous pension benefits had to be trimmed. Though he had promised unions he'd oppose 1984 pension reform legislation, he abstained on a critical committee vote, breaking a tie and allowing the bill to reach the full House, where it eventually passed. He voted against the bill as he had promised.

He served in the House from 1983 to 1996, when he was elected treasurer.

Nancy Kopp - mother of two, fan of Jane Austen and master legislator - comes to the treasurer's office as Mr. Dixon did, from the House Appropriations Committee. Like him, she knows state finance.

And she comes to her new post in the tradition of numbers-wise Montgomery County legislators who gave Maryland generations of progressive and generous funding formulas for various programs.

Both legislators have done their work in Annapolis with skill, professionalism and deep devotion to the state's financial health. They would say they were simply doing their jobs.

Marylanders should say, "We're in your debt."

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