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Fitzpatrick settling in as state treasurer

Fitzpatrick settling in as state treasurer

February 24th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

Mark Wilson/News Tribune Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick shows some of the unclaimed properties from deposit boxes at the State Treasurer's office Wednesday. Old baseball cards, watches, medals and even an old clown suit were on display.

With no opposition on the ballot, state Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick was re-elected last November to his fourth, and final, two-year term in the Legislature — where he chaired the House Budget Committee in 2017 and 2018.

But Missouri voters last November also selected Attorney General Josh Hawley to be the state's next U.S. senator, setting in motion a chain of events that included Fitzpatrick leaving the Legislature to become the state's new treasurer.

On Jan. 14, Fitzpatrick, 31, took the oath of office as the new treasurer, succeeding Eric Schmitt, who had been elected treasurer in 2016, but became attorney general Jan. 3, when Hawley officially joined the U.S. Senate.

"We're getting into the swing of things," he told the News Tribune last week. "We've got our staff in place. We're still learning stuff every day. But, in general, things are going well."

Missouri's Constitution defines the treasurer's duties, including: "The state treasurer shall be custodian of all state funds and funds received from the United States government.

"Immediately upon receipt of state or United States funds, the state treasurer shall deposit all moneys in the state treasury in banking institutions selected by him and approved by the governor and state auditor, and he shall hold them for the benefit of the respective funds to which they belong and disburse them as provided by law."

The treasurer also oversees the operations of, and disbursements from, the Unclaimed Properties program — which was his reason for meeting with reporters last week.

As explained on the website, "The State Treasurer serves as Missouri's Chief Financial Officer.

"The Treasurer protects taxpayer funds from fraud and abuse, safeguards more than $1 billion in Unclaimed Property, manages a small business and agriculture economic development program, and administers the state's tax-advantaged education and disability savings plans."

Fitzpatrick said: "I enjoy the job. We've got a good group of people, both in the Truman Building and here in the Capitol, that run a professional office."

Like other statewide elected officials, the treasurer has an office in the Capitol — but much of his staff actually is housed in the Truman State Office Building.

But, he acknowledged: "I'm busier than I thought I would be — just on a daily basis, in terms of things that just come up, that have to be dealt with."

Fitzpatrick said a lot of that early busyness "is related to the Legislature being here — and I didn't really anticipate that as much. I kind of thought that, once I was out of the Legislature, it would have less of an impact on my life."

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When he was House Budget chairman, he heard a lot of officials explain their department's budgets and explain the need for those funds.

This year, he was one of the presenters.

"Just preparing to present your budget to the Legislature is something I hadn't done before," he noted. "I wanted to make sure I did well, given my previous role."

He and his staff are watching proposed bills to see how they might affect the treasurer's work. For example, Fitzpatrick said: "Every bill that creates a fund has our office involved in it."

The job also is bigger in other ways, he said — ways that generally go unnoticed by people who don't work with Missouri's treasurer on a regular basis.

"When I took the job, I wanted to spend a lot of time over at the Truman Building, getting into the weeds on a lot of stuff," Fitzpatrick said, "and I haven't probably had as much time to spend over there as I thought I was going to, initially. Hopefully, I will get to that point, soon."

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