The office oversees the dozens of state bank accounts, manages $1 billion in unclaimed private property, and administers programs aimed at helping small businesses, farmers and people with disabilities grow their own bank accounts.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series offering primers on the candidates and issues on the November 2020 ballot.

If there's any elected office that can be described in a few words, it's the state treasurer: They handle the money.

The office oversees the dozens of state bank accounts, manages $1 billion in unclaimed private property, and administers programs aimed at helping small businesses, farmers and people with disabilities grow their own bank accounts.

Like other statewide officials, the treasurer also sits on a number of boards overseeing things like low-income housing and state debt.

Here are your candidates for Missouri’s chief financial officer this fall:

Scott Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, 33, is the Republican incumbent in the race. He was appointed to the job from his seat in the Missouri House last year after Eric Schmitt was appointed attorney general.

The Cassville resident previously served six years in the Missouri House, including two as House Budget Chair. He started a boat dock-building business before entering politics.

In an interview, he pitched himself as someone who’s done the job well so far and wants to keep going.

He said evidence of that good work could be found in something like a new program matching the list of people with unclaimed property with the list of people behind on child support to get beneficiaries paid faster. More than $3 million has been returned so far, he said.

Fitzpatrick said he also worked on new rules for the state’s low-income housing tax credit program he hopes will make it more transparent and a better bang for taxpayers’ buck.

When the state moved its tax filing deadline back three months this year, squeezing the state’s cash flow, he said he worked to use coronavirus relief funds as a short-term loan to fill the gap and pay tax refunds on time.

"We were able to continue to have hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds to people that needed them right away rather than having people wait and the state owing 9 percent interest."

He says he would spend a full, four-year term on priorities that include:

Getting more local governments to post their spending data online;
Pushing lawmakers to pass a bill allowing him to create a college savings account for every child born in the state and seed it with up to $100 to encourage saving;
Revisiting a controversial proposal to issue tax credits to help people pay for K-12 education costs, including private school tuition.

He also highlighted his background as an entrepreneur and said his door would remain open to anyone running into trouble with bureaucracy.

Vicki Englund

Englund, 46, is the Democratic challenger in the race.

She previously served as a state representative from south St. Louis County from 2009-11 and 2013-2015. She also runs an e-commerce business.

In an interview, she said she first became interested in the treasurer's office during her time in the state House, when she sponsored legislation to help the office return more than 100 unclaimed military medals to recipients' families.

She framed her candidacy as an opportunity for voters to choose a more progressive treasurer who supports voter-approved Medicaid expansion — which Fitzpatrick opposed — and wants to bring a new focus on diversity to the office amid a national reckoning on racism.

"We are facing a triple crisis of health, the economy and of civil justice reform all at the same time," she said. "We can't keep doing business as usual."

Englund said she would start on the latter by bringing in students from historically black colleges and universities to help with her plan to take unclaimed property auctions online for the first time. Then, she said, she would review the state's investments to ensure they reflect the same values.

"We need to be investing in companies that agree with my focus on diversity, inclusion and sustainability in addition to being good investments," she said.

She said she would also work to “proactively target” small business loans to minority and women-owned businesses struggling amid the pandemic as well as family farms having trouble right now.

Englund also noted her experience in economic development: She worked at the federal Small Business Administration in the late 1990s, on the St. Louis County Economic Council in the early 2000s and on her small business for the past 20-plus years.

"I've been doing this longer, I have more experience and that's who we need at the helm right now,” she said.

She said a victory on Nov. 3 would also be important for the state Democratic Party after years of losing ground in the legislature and a Republican sweep of five statewide offices, including treasurer, in 2016.

“As Democrats, we need to build our bench,” she said, using a term that describes a party’s options for higher political office. “Having statewide Democrats helps us rebuild the party.”

Third-party candidates

Libertarian Nick Kasoff of Ferguson told the League of Women Voters he would offer voters oversight of state spending from a position independent of the two dominant parties.

He also said he would focus on using technology to improve the office’s services and put an end to a contest that offers people a chance to win $5,290 for their college savings in an effort to raise awareness of tax-advantaged college savings accounts that the office oversees.

Green Party candidate Joseph Civettini of St. Louis is also on the ballot. He could not be reached for this article.