Ted Wheeler jumps to State Treasurer slot

Ted Wheeler jumps to State Treasurer slot »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Gov. Ted Kulongoski has named Multnomah County Commission Chairman Ted Wheeler as state treasurer, succeeding Ben Westlund, who died Sunday of lung cancer.

Wheeler, 47, a former financial industry executive and athlete who made it to the top of Mount Everest in 2002, is in the last year of his term heading the government in the state's most populous county.

The appointment is temporary, until voters select someone in November to finish the last two years of Westlund's term.

Wheeler said he would be a candidate, and he's going to have opposition in the Democratic primary in May. State Sen. Rick Metsger of Welches and former state treasurer Jim Hill both have filed to run, according to state records.

Among Republicans, state Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend announced Tuesday that she is in the race.

Kulongoski and the candidates moved quickly after Westlund's death because the filing deadline for the elections is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Wheeler said that he had sometimes thought of running for treasurer, and Kulongoski sought him out Sunday afternoon after Westlund's death was announced.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity," Wheeler said Tuesday at a news conference with the governor in Portland. "I'm saddened by the circumstances that bring me here today."

Kulongoski said his short list was two: Wheeler and former Rep. Greg Macpherson of Lake Oswego. Telling Macpherson he didn't get the job was one of the hardest things he'd done in politics, the governor said.

Macpherson ran afoul of public employee unions in an overhaul of the state public pension system. They threw their support behind Democrat John Kroger in a primary race two years ago for attorney general.

Kulongoski backed Macpherson in that race and acknowledged Tuesday that the reaction from labor worked against Macpherson as Kulongoski made up his mind Monday evening about the treasurer's job.

"That was part of it," he said.

Meanwhile, the remaining Multnomah County commissioners will come together to appoint an interim chair. That person will serve until December. A primary election to choose a new chair will be held on May 18. The general election will be held Nov. 2.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Read the entire press release:

Today Governor Ted Kulongoski announced the appointment of Ted Wheeler to the office of State Treasurer, filling the vacancy created by the passing of Treasurer Ben Westlund.
 
“Ted Wheeler brings the perfect balance of expertise from both the public and private sectors to this job with an impressive record managing the county’s budget to a working knowledge of the financial industry,” said Governor Ted Kulongoski. “A fifth generation Oregonian with ties across the state, I am confident that Ted will serve Oregonians well as the State Treasurer.”
 
Wheeler was elected to Multnomah County Chair in November 2006 with 70 percent of the vote, serving both as Chief Executive Officer of Multnomah County and the Chair of the Board of Commissioners. Before taking office, Wheeler worked in the financial industry, including with the Bank of America and Copper Mountain Trust.

Wheeler is a graduate of Portland’s Lincoln High School.  He earned a BA degree in Economics from Stanford University, an MBA from Columbia University and a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of this great state and am well prepared for the challenges ahead,” Ted Wheeler said.
 
The Treasurer serves as the chief financial officer for the state and is responsible for the financial management of billions of taxpayer dollars. The Treasurer also serves as the state’s chief investment officer, and has the duty of investing the moneys of the Public Employees Retirement Fund, the State Accident Insurance Fund, the Common School Fund and numerous smaller funds.
 
The Treasurer serves on a variety of state financial boards and on the State Land Board which has a fiduciary duty to manage state trust lands for the benefit of the Common School Fund.
 
Article V, section 16 of the Oregon Constitution govern filling the vacancy of the office of the State Treasurer. The immediate vacancy is filled by appointment by the Governor and shall serve only until such time as a successor is duly elected and qualified at the next regularly scheduled general election.
 
Oregon voters will select a candidate to fill the remaining two years of office at the General Election in November of this year.
 
Anna Richter Taylor
Communications Director
Office of Governor Ted Kulongoski