Newsmaker Q&A: Markey returns to state she treasures

In June, Betsy Markey, who represented the 4th Congressional District for one term, announced she’ll be seeking the Democratic nomination for state treasurer in 2014.

The former Fort Collins business owner beat out Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave to win the U.S. House seat in 2008 but then lost to Cory Gardner in 2010. She then returned to Washington to serve as a deputy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

We asked her what drew her back to Colorado at such a divisive political time and why she’s qualified to count beans for the state.

Question: What made you decide to return to Colorado, and what inspired you to run for treasurer?

Answer: For the last two years I served as the assistant secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It was an honor to work in the administration, but after two years living in Washington, D.C., I was ready to return to Colorado – to my family, my friends, my dogs and my home.

The treasurer’s office can play a critical role laying a sound fiscal foundation for economic growth. As a business owner I have managed the finances and investments of two successful small businesses. In my time in public service I have worked hard for the people of Colorado and our country. I am inspired to use these experiences to ensure a smarter, more efficient, more innovative and transparent state treasury.

Q: The role the treasurer plays in our state is similar to a company’s chief financial officer. In what ways are you qualified for such a position?

A: I have spent the last 30 years as a manager in both the public and private sectors. Colorado families, mine included, watch their bottom line and live within their means every day. Government should be no different. I understand first-hand the challenges Colorado families face every day. My husband and I started our first business in 1986 working out of our attic. During the dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990s through the current recession, this same company has been profitable for 27 years. In the mid-1990s it was listed as one of the country’s fastest growing businesses in Inc. Magazine.

In the mid 1990s I purchased a retail store in Fort Collins. I employed college students from CSU, and put my three children to work behind the counter, because I believe it’s important to instill at an early age a sense of responsibility and hard work in our children. I had steady and solid growth, and sold that business four years later at a substantial profit. I understand the challenges of investing wisely, meeting a payroll and your monthly obligations, while remaining profitable.

Q: According to the Colorado Department of Treasury, Colorado’s Public Employee Retirement Association maintains a large unfunded liability. What are your plans for closing this gap?

A: One of my top priorities will be to keep our Public Employees Retirement Association safe for current and future retirees. Reforms were made to PERA during the 2010 legislative session. These included decreasing the cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees and increasing the retirement age for current and future enrollees. I will continue to work closely with all members of the state Legislature and the PERA board to close any funding gap, to protect the retirement of nearly half a million Coloradans, while protecting all of Colorado’s taxpayers.

Q: In light of the recent announcement of the increase in student loan interest rates, do you have any plans to alleviate the financial burden on Colorado’s college students?

A: When I was in Congress I voted to increase Stafford loans and Pell grants by streamlining the process through the Department of Education and shifting more expensive lending capacity from private banks. I am open to finding creative solutions because this is too big a long-term problem to ignore, and has significant impacts on Colorado’s middle class.

Q: How has your role at the Department of Homeland Security prepared you for work as the state treasurer?

A: In my role as assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I worked closely with governors and mayors across the country to promote an integrated approach to many key homeland security issues by creating and strengthening a partnership with state, local, tribal and territorial governments. Party affiliation played no role in our work. The state treasurer must work in partnership with the governor, all members of the state Legislature, and state and local leaders around the state.

Q: What will you do differently in this election campaign than you did in 2010?

A: I will have the opportunity in this campaign to travel to all 64 counties in Colorado, and to meet people across this beautiful state. I look forward to that.

- Maggie Shafer


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