Guest Column — State boards critical to good governance — get involved
On Nov. 28, I attended my last meeting of the Cash Management Policy Board in my capacity as state treasurer. At the end of the two-hour meeting, Chairman John Flynn reflected on his 38 years of serving on the Board: “Compared to the previous 34 … we have done more to help the State in the last four years than I can remember.”
The Cash Management Policy Board handles the important responsibilities of setting policy for the investment and banking of state monies, and approving the engagement of the State’s money managers and financial service providers.
By no coincidence, but rather through careful planning and deliberate execution, last month’s meeting brought to different stages of completion three distinct strategic initiatives on which the Treasurer’s Office and the Board have collaborated these past four years.
At the top of the order was the first quarterly performance review of a new platform for the State’s $2 billion investment portfolio. The revised structure took nearly three years to build and implement, and replaces a nearly four-decade-old framework. It keeps the security of investments paramount, but fundamentally improves on both the investment return earned by the State and the efficiency in meeting our government’s cash needs.
Second was a vote to award contracts to a consolidated set of financial service companies to take on the totality of banking business for the State of Delaware. This holistic approach to building our financial network was without precedent and required more than two years from concept to contract. Its implementation will take longer still, but promises the State lower overall expenses, improved cyber-security and greater employee productivity.
Finally, a memorandum was delivered to the chairman, inviting consideration of an expansion of the board’s oversight to include Delaware’s debt policies and practices — a role that is currently not concentrated under one authority.
Building on our State’s commitment to sound borrowing, but allowing for more strategic use of our balance sheet, may be one means to maintain our AAA bond rating while meeting the growing demands for greater public capital investments. This initiative should receive consideration in the new year and beyond.
As I contemplate my imminent departure from public office, the work that has gone on between my administration and the Cash Management Policy Board is a source of accomplishment, pride and hope.
In the first instance, the projects described above represent only a portion of the improvements made to Delaware’s financial systems, all of which have depended upon careful balancing of the Board’s oversight role and my office’s administrative autonomy. As recent history reminds, this has not always been easily achieved.
Second, collaborations among state agencies and boards are at the heart of the checks and balances that comprise good governance. They allow our 62-member General Assembly to extend its oversight responsibilities to operations that employ some 35,000 people and reach into almost every field of industry.
Finally, boards, committees and councils serve as a valuable repository of institutional memory that transcends the administration of any one public or appointed officeholder. As I exit the role of state treasurer, along with some of my senior staff, the board will remain as a source of continuity for both the remaining office personnel, as well as the incoming administration.
Our public boards, councils and committees deserve greater recognition and appreciation for the valuable role that they play in our state government. I offer here a few comments to that effect on my way back to civilian life:
To my fellow members of the Cash Management Policy Board, particularly those public members who serve without remuneration and with little recognition, I say “thank you.” John Flynn, Dave Marvin, Mike Karia, Warren Engle and Lynda Messick, your contributions to our State have been both significant in quantity and substantial in quality.
For the staff with whom I have worked these past four years, the carriage of the Office of the State Treasurer now falls to you and my successor. In doing so, I urge you to share your vision with the boards that the office supports and continue to take advantage of their wisdom and capacity for cooperation.
To my successor, Treasurer-Elect Davis, I hope that when the time comes to attend your last meeting of the Board that your experience, like mine, is one that conjures feelings of amicability with your fellow members, as well as a shared sense of achievement. These collaborations are essential to lasting improvements in state government operations.
Finally, for the members of the public for whom I have had the honor of serving, I note that the State’s website lists almost 400 hundred boards, committees, councils and task forces, the application form to apply to any one of which is only a few pages long. I include the link here: https://governor.delaware.gov/boards-commissions/.
Citizens serving on these boards can have an incredible and outsized impact on the success of our state government. Wherever your interests lie and whatever your experience may be, chances are that there is a board somewhere that has an appropriate opening.
Find it and fill it — your State needs you.
Ken Simpler is Delaware’s outgoing state treasurer. His term in office ends on Jan. 1, 2019.
By Ken Simpler
Special to the Coastal Point