Former Rep. Julie Ellsworth of Boise, who is almost certain to be the next state treasurer, has quick answers for those who are skeptical about her qualifications for the job.
“I’ll tell you what’s in my background,” she said during a televised debate on Idaho Public Television. “I am a thorough person. I fight for transparency and accountability. If I feel I am not getting the right answers, I delve into it.”
Critics will say that Ellsworth, as with Treasurer Ron Crane, does not have advanced degrees in finance – which may explain why he has had to defend himself against allegations of mismanagement during his 20-year reign. Ellsworth is no Ron Crane, although she says many good things have happened over the last two decades. But she’s prepared to make fixes where necessary.
Her professional background is in education and the Legislature, where she has served as a House member – and more recently – an assistant to House leadership. If expertise is needed in technical aspects, she says she will hire accordingly. There’s plenty of technical grunt work to go around. According to the office’s website, the treasurer is responsible for the management of state and local government investment pools. The treasurer directs receipt of all state monies, the accounting and disbursement of public funds, and invests general account and pooled agency cash in various fixed income securities.
In other words, it’s a mundane job. If a state treasurer makes the front pages of Idaho newspapers, as Crane has done for time to time, it can only mean bad news. A worthwhile goal for Ellsworth is to stay off the front pages.
Ellsworth, of course, will make sure the routine functions are carried out. But she believes she has strengths that go beyond the defined duties.
“Part of the job is interacting with cities, counties, schools, courts and the executive branch,” she said. If the office needs anything on the legislative front, beyond funding for the office, she knows how to work those channels.
Technically, Ellsworth is the Republican Party’s nominee for state treasurer and she doesn’t think of herself as anything beyond that. But with no announced opposition in the November election, she is in effect the treasurer-elect. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star, a longtime friend and colleague of Ellsworth, says he has full confidence in her ability.
“She’s smart, and what she doesn’t know, she learns fast. She works hard and has the right political connections and social connections to do the job,” Moyle said.
Ellsworth, who has won and lost elections to the Legislature in her Boise district, faced a tall challenge in winning this primary race. Vicky McIntyre, the Ada County treasurer, had the experience and Tom Kealey – who also had a deep level of experience – had a long list of impressive political endorsements. But as it turned out, Ellsworth had a strong political network backing her campaign.
Ellsworth, a lifelong Republican, touted herself as being pro-life and pro-Second Amendment – stances that have no meaning in a state treasurer’s office. But those positions served as reminders to the minions backing her campaign that she had conservative ideals on those close-to-the-heart issues. What also mattered to Ellsworth’s network was her long history of working side-by-side with Idahoans throughout the state on numerous Republican campaigns. Her followers were excited that she was running for state treasurer, and more excited with her narrow victory over Kealey in the primary election.
On the surface, it appeared that Ellsworth hardly campaigned for the office. In reality, she said, “I campaigned very hard. I had a lot of go-to people across the state – people I have worked with in other campaigns over the last 25 years. I had people working in places I didn’t know about. When you have people doing your grassroots work, it’s very rewarding and humbling.”
In Ellsworth’s campaign literature, she promoted three basic principles – oversight, transparency and accountability. Those are nice things to talk about in a political campaign. Details will come after she officially becomes treasurer-elect and begins the transition process. In the meantime, there’s no harm with her taking a well-earned victory lap.
“I can hardly wait for the Republican convention, so I can give the people who helped me a big hug,” she said.