It takes only a second or two to get past Young Boozer’s suggestive name once you begin reading his qualifications for the job of state treasurer. He is clearly the most qualified and the most knowledgeable candidate in the race in either party.
While other candidates appear to be running on the single issue of the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program, Boozer appropriately addresses administration of the PACT plan as one of the many aspects of the treasurer’s role in managing the state’s finances.
Boozer points out that the PACT plan was flawed from the beginning, poorly managed, and will require “financial leadership and a collaborative effort among all parties involved to craft a workable solution.”
His opponent in the Republican primary, George Wallace Jr., certainly knows the job from his own experience. He has already served two terms as state treasurer, and he was one of the founders of PACT. His primary goal in returning to the office seems to be to save the failed program, which he says was in good shape when he left office in 1995. Wallace is a thoughtful, moral and deeply caring man. It is commendable that he is seeking the means to fix the broken PACT, and he was and would be a good state treasurer.
Young Boozer, however, is the better man in the race.
Democrat: Jeremy Sherer
Between the two Democrats in the race for state treasurer, one is a longtime political insider with a background in finance, and the other is a newcomer with a law degree and some sensible ideas about the role of treasurer.
With all his years in politics, retired banker Charley Grimsley has accumulated some baggage — most distasteful to fellow Democrats is his association with former Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and his support of north Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith who recently switched parties to the GOP.
However, Grimsley also has accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments, including pushing a boating safety bill through the Legislature and halting a plan to develop a four-star hotel at Gulf State Park. As Windom’s chief of staff, Grimsley helped put together a bipartisan coalition that led to the passage of a law to require Medicaid to cover breast reconstruction after mastectomy. These accomplishments show Grimsley to be an effective political operative able to forge bipartisan agreement. Other than that, they do not have much bearing on his qualifications or plans for the treasurer’s office.
Grimsley’s Democratic opponent, Jeremy Sherer, is an attorney from Oneonta. He was an adviser to U.S. Rep. Artur Davis before joining a Birmingham law firm. In his only previous political race, he was the Democratic nominee for Alabama House District 34 in 2006 but lost to the Republican incumbent.
Do not mistake Sherer’s lack of experience for inability. In this race, he has identified four areas of responsibility among the many the treasurer must address, and his ideas are impressive.
He plans to make sure that all state treasury money held in banks is deposited in sound Alabama-based institutions that actively lend within their communities. He claims that at present millions of state tax dollars are deposited in out-of-state banks that have been cited for discriminatory lending practices.
Sherer wants to improve the availability of small bank loans to average Alabamians and reduce the dependence on pawn shops and payday lenders. He says he will work with the attorney general and the Legislature to protect families from predatory lending practices. Part of this initiative, he says, would be to improve financial literacy among the state’s residents.
He offers no simple solution to the PACT dilemma, recognizing that even with the bailout passed this spring, PACT will be an ongoing problem.
Finally, Sherer proposes to make the state’s financial holdings, expenditures and investments available for public examination by putting them online.
Sherer’s ideas coalesce into a picture of a forward-thinking state treasurer who will look for unconventional solutions to existing problems. He’s part of a new generation of politicians in Alabama, and it’s about time.