Wheeler suited for treasurer

Our Opinion

The job of Oregon state treasurer is tailor made to fit the specific skill set of the person who holds the position: former Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler.

Wheeler, who was appointed treasurer in March by Gov. Ted Kulongoski after the death of former Treasurer Ben Westlund, has a wealth of private-sector financial experience and a track record of public-sector success in leading Oregon's most populous county.

Democratic voters in the May 18 primary should select Wheeler as their nominee for the November election over longtime state Sen. Rick Metsger of Welches.

Metsger has been an effective legislator and a significant leader on many statewide transportation and economic development issues. He just happens to have the misfortune in this election of running against someone whose experience is much more applicable to the job.

Wheeler is a rising star. He has been involved in elected politics for less than four years. Before that, he had been a director and manager of an investment firm that oversaw nearly $6 billion in assets. His education also prepared him well for a career in finance and government - he holds a degree in economics from Stanford University, an MBA from Columbia University and a master of public policy degree from Harvard.

While we agree with Metsger that Oregon's treasurer doesn't make investment decisions alone, it sure doesn't hurt to have Wheeler's extensive expertise heading the state treasury. Wheeler will know what questions to ask about state investments - and he will know what questions to ask of the people who work for him in the treasurer's office.

This latter role - managing the department - is all the more important following recent revelations in The Oregonian newspaper about loose practices and ethics among the state's investment officers. Those practices, mostly related to travel, gifts and expense accounts, were in place before Wheeler arrived, and we believe he has responded swiftly and appropriately to address the abuses.

Both Wheeler and Metsger believe the treasurer can do more to invest in Oregon and its businesses - while also maximizing returns on the state's pension funds and other investments. They both also realize that, at a time when Oregon's citizens are hurting from the prolonged recession, the state treasurer must be a more visible and assertive force for economic good and a strategist for the future.

We believe Wheeler's experiences best prepare him to be elected state treasurer. We urge Democratic voters to select Ted Wheeler in the May 18 primary.