Since Eau Claire Memorial High School alumna Sarah Godlewski graduated in 2000, she has been busy studying the world of finance.
She’s done microfinancing for rural areas around the world and worked in government agencies — most notably for 10 years at the Pentagon working for the undersecretary of defense, where she said she looked at how the country is spending money and how to optimize tax dollars.
With the results of Tuesday’s election, Godlewski can take all of those experiences and use them to fight for the financial rights of Wisconsinites as she won the state treasurer’s race, putting her in position to fill an office that nearly went extinct. She beat her opponent, Republican Travis Hartwig, with 51 percent of the vote to his 47 percent. Constitution Party candidate Andrew Zuelke received 2 percent of the vote.
“I’m ecstatic about the results because it means a lot of people agree that we should keep this office,” Godlewski, a Democrat, said.
In the August primary, Wisconsin voters were asked whether or not to keep the position and voted 61 percent to 39 percent in favor of keeping it. Over the years, the office has been depleted of resources as duties have been eliminated or delegated to other departments, according to USA Today. The treasurer’s primary responsibility right now is to sit on the Board of Commissioners of Public Land, but Godlewski said the position is so much more than that.
“Right now, we’re building a transition committee, and my vision for this committee is to make sure we have a core group of people who represent a nonpartisan office, which I want this to be,” she said. “The second thing is making sure we have the core finance skills from audit, economic empowerment and investment perspectives.”
Her plan is to build on the policies she ran on during her campaign: acting as a financial watchdog for the state; establishing an economic empowerment program by following the lead of states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island to reduce abuse from big banks, predatory lending and aging fraud; and creating “win-win investment strategies,” making sure the money the state invests in bonds benefits communities inside the state instead of outside.
“I’m looking at, ‘what can we accomplish in the first 100 days?’” she said. “I’m not going to be bored.”
She also hopes to refinance student loan rates, especially after hearing on the campaign trail from someone who pays $1,000 a month just in loan interest.
She added she thinks a lot of the financial mismanagement that’s been happening is because of a lack of internal controls, and said her predecessor, Republican Matt Adamczyk, tried to “whittle this office down to nothing.”
But she believes the office, when used well, is a huge investment in the state’s financial health. And based on the results of Tuesday’s election, she thinks state voters agree.
“If our state isn’t financially healthy, our state isn’t healthy,” Godlewski said. “We are potentially approaching an economic downturn, and we want to be prepared to address whatever is ahead. And that’s exactly what this office should be doing as chief financial officer of the state.”
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