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State Treasurer John Schroder opens his first Bond Commission meeting as chairman on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, is to Schroder's right.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

While the agenda was mostly routine this month, it was a big meeting of the State Bond Commission for its new chairman, John Schroder.

The former state representative from Covington is now head of the Louisiana Treasury, having been elected in a November runoff to fill the unexpired term of John N. Kennedy.

Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, and in the meantime his top assistant, Ron Henson, capably filled in as treasurer until a special election could be held.

It was a challenging campaign, in part because the treasurer’s office — despite Kennedy’s high profile in state politics — is relatively obscure to voters. As treasurer, Schroder will chair the bond commission, sometimes an arena of controversy but most often a body that — as it did in December — reviewed and approved plans for bond issues, and thus borrowing money, for local governments and occasionally the state government.

The treasurer’s main power is to set the bond commission agenda, but he can be heavily outvoted by the governor’s designees and legislative leaders. Schroder will also oversee the state’s bank accounts, including making sure that the state earns interest readily on any idle funds.

Again, that's not a particularly gripping role to voters when compared to a governor who wields a lot of power over agencies that more directly affect lives and the future of local communities.

For that reason, voter turnout in the October general and November special elections was pretty dismal. Much of the turnout was in Orleans Parish, where the election coincided with voters choosing a new mayor and City Council. Still, the treasurer's race attracted several Republican candidates and Democrat Derrick Edwards, with Schroder facing the latter in a runoff and winning fairly handily in a largely Republican Louisiana.

“I’m humbled and honored to serve, and you have my commitment and word that I’ll work very hard,” Schroder said at his first meeting of the bond commission.

We congratulate him on his election and hope that he will be a constructive public servant. This is a job where performance is more important than posturing, although Kennedy did his share of that as a self-appointed overseer of state spending.

Perhaps an underappreciated role of the treasurer is as one of the state’s spokesmen and liaison with Wall Street bond rating agencies. The state’s borrowing is cheaper with better bond ratings, but Wall Street is not concerned with how loud a treasurer we have but rather wants to hear in collaboration with the governor’s office what the state is doing to responsibly manage its money.

The treasurer doesn’t spend the state’s dime; he watches it in the state bank account. It’s an important distinction that Schroder should keep in mind.

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