Financial issues surrounding the race for state treasurer between Republican Tate Reeves and Democrat Gary Anderson have stirred controversy in the business community, with some professionals saying the business of money management for the state has been given to out-of-state people for too long, and others saying money managers and investment companies should be chosen based solely on the best possible returns for the taxpayers and employees of the state, regardless of location.
“The state treasurer has been using out-of-state money managers, and some Mississippi brokers and money managers have been kind of mad about it, but the reality is the state has billions of dollars to invest, and with that you can attract the attention of the biggest and best managers in the country,” said Stacey Wall, president of Pinnacle Trust in Ridgeland.
Anderson, 18 years older than Reeves, has a strong public service background. Reeves’ experience is in the private sector.
“Tate Reeves is one of our members, and many members have supported him, but as far as formally saying we endorse him as our candidate for state treasurer, we haven’t officially taken a position,” said Arty Finkelberg, CFA, program chairman for the Mississippi Society of Financial Analysts. “If I had to poll everyone in our society, my guess is the vote would, by a very large margin, go to Tate, but to be unbiased and objective, it’s good to hear what both of them have to say.”
The financial analysts organization will host a candidates’ forum September 30th at the Edison Walthall Hotel in Jackson. Mississippi Business Journal publisher Joe D. Jones, CPA, will serve as discussion moderator.
Because of a long-standing policy, the Mississippi Society of CPAs (MSCPA) will not endorse a particular candidate for state treasurer, said MSCPA executive director Jack Coppenbarger.
“We are pleased to see really good candidates seeking this post and feel that this will continue to improve our state government and how our finances are handled, and the budget process will continue to be refined and our investments monitored,” he said.
A Byhalia native, Anderson, 47, who defeated state senator Rob Smith in statewide runoffs last month, has not said he would make a change in money management. Under his leadership as Mississippi’s first African-American state fiscal officer, Anderson expanded the Department of Finance and Administration’s services while sustaining a 17% decrease in general fund obligations.
Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in urban regional planning from the University of Mississippi before serving as community planner and director of community development for the Governor’s Office of Federal-State Programs, deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (now Mississippi Development Authority), senior vice president of community development for Sunburst/Union Planters Bank and president and CEO of Barrington Mortgage Company and president and CEO of The Anderson Group.
At press time, the Anderson campaign had not responded to the Mississippi Business Journal for comment.
A Jackson native, Reeves, 29, who defeated former transportation commissioner Wayne Burkes in the party runoffs, has indicated that he would consider allowing Mississippi money managers to compete for the business.
“In selecting managers for the state, our first criteria will be long-term risk-adjusted returns. The people of Mississippi deserve performance,” Reeves said. “However, all other things being equal, my administration will have a preference for Mississippi financial institutions such that we can create economic development within our own state.”
Reeves earned an economics degree from Millsaps College, where he is an investment policy board member for the General Louis Wilson Fund, and later earned the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst designation. An investment officer for Trustmark in Jackson, Reeves was an assistant vice president for AmSouth and served as a senior investment analyst and member of the investment policy committee. He received the 1996 Mississippi Society of Financial Analysts Award.
“All things being equal, I’d personally like to see in-state money managers being used,” said Finkelberg. “At the same time, the treasurer has a fiduciary responsibility to seek the most capable managers regardless of their residency.”
A field of six candidates — three each Democrats and Republicans — had lobbied hard for the job held by Democrat Marshall Bennett since 1988. Bennett, who left office June 30, joined New York’s Wolf Popper, LLC, a law firm specializing in securities issues, litigation to protect retirees’ investments and stockholders’ rights, in July.
Because Bennett was the longest-serving treasurer in state history, voters are being reminded that the state treasurer, who serves a four-year term and earns $90,000 per year, is essentially the state’s bookkeeper and does not have the authority to dictate the budget.
“That’s the Legislature’s job,” said Wall.
Mark Wilder, Ph.D., an accounting professor at the University of Mississippi, who has taught governmental accounting, said the state treasurer’s primary responsibilities include the investment and management of cash, the management of debt and debt service and the management of treasury department funds.
Despite the controversy over financial issues, the race may be decided by other factors, said Marty Wiseman, political science professor and director of the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University.
“It may not be as much about issues, but turnout,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.