Legislators vote in Kopp as treasurer

27-year delegate overwhelming choice as Dixon's successor

February 06, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

The General Assembly overwhelmingly chose Del. Nancy K. Kopp yesterday to be Maryland's next treasurer, sending the longtime lawmaker to one of the state's highest posts.

Kopp, a member of the House of Delegates since 1975, will manage the state's investments and represent the legislature on the powerful Board of Public Works.

After two standing ovations, the Montgomery County Democrat said in an emotional goodbye to her colleagues, "For nearly 30 years, my life has revolved around this General Assembly and this House. It's been a wonderful, wonderful honor, but it's time to go."

Kopp, 58, of Bethesda replaces Richard N. Dixon, who resigned because of ill health. Dixon had held the position since 1996 and occasionally referred to himself as "the best treasurer in the nation."

Yesterday in the House Appropriations Committee, where Kopp was chairwoman of a subcommittee, she was greeted by a crab cake buffet and a large cake with the message: "Nancy K. Kopp - The Next Greatest Treasurer."

When she is sworn in Feb. 14, Kopp will manage a department that oversees the investment of nearly $5 billion in state funds. Among her first tasks, she said, will be to review with department directors a recent audit that showed potentially costly lags in processing state accounts.

Kopp also becomes one of three members, with Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, of the Board of Public Works, which approves contracts of more than $200,000 and school construction bonds, among other spending projects.

She also will join the 14-member board that oversees the $29.4 billion state employee pension system. An immediate question is whether she will succeed Dixon as chairman of that board. The position has for years been held by the state comptroller or the treasurer, but that is not required by law.

As vice chairman of the board, Schaefer became chairman upon Dixon's resignation and initially indicated that he didn't want the job permanently. Yesterday, however, Schaefer said he plans to stay in charge at least until Dixon's term expires in June.

"She's going to have enough to do being treasurer," Schaefer said. "I don't think she ought be head of the world until at least another six months."

Kopp said it makes sense for the treasurer to run the board. She said she will consult with Schaefer, whose "views are very important to me."

Kopp got 135 of 184 votes yesterday. Del. Pauline H. Menes, a Prince George's County Democrat, got 33, and a smattering of votes went to eight others. Five jokesters voted for Joseph Bryce, the governor's chief lobbyist, and one vote went to Hawthorne Wingo, a former New York Knicks basketball player.

In Annapolis

Today's highlights

10 a.m. Senate meets, Senate chamber.

10 a.m. House of Delegates meets, House chamber.

2:30 p.m. House Ways and Means Committee, briefing on horse racing industry, Room 110, Lowe House Office Building.

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