By DENISE GRANT
Ohio’s treasurer serves as the state’s chief financial officer and banker, with the duty to safeguard taxpayer money. In his bid for the office, Findlay’s Robert Sprague has promised to do more.
“I not only have the ability to expertly execute the core duties of the treasurer, but the passion and perseverance to do so much more,” he said.
Sprague, 45, was appointed to represent the 83rd District in the Ohio House in 2011, and was elected to the post in 2012. He was then re-elected as the district’s representative in 2014 and 2016. The 83rd District includes Hancock, Hardin and a portion of Logan counties.
Now Sprague is running for a statewide office, and is vying for the Republican nomination on May 8 with Sandra O’Brien, 66, of Rome. O’Brien is the former auditor of Ashtabula County, a position she held for 12 years, or three terms.
There is no incumbent in the treasurer race. State Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican whose term expires next January, is not seeking re-election.
As of last week’s filing deadline for pre-election campaign finance reports, Sprague’s campaign had spent $428,288 on the race since January, compared with O’Brien’s $16,365 in expenses.
Sprague said his ambitions for the office include “promoting innovative financial solutions to tackle some of our state’s greatest challenges,” including the opiate addiction crisis and Ohio’s crumbling infrastructure.
As a lawmaker, Sprague has been very active in the state’s attempts to slow the drug crisis.
“While much work has been done, this continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing our state and I will remain focused on finding meaningful solutions that help save lives as treasurer of state,” he said.
“One area in particular I will focus on is the standardization of social impact bonds (SIBs) to help fight the opiate epidemic, infant mortality and other society ills,” Sprague said.
Through SIB partnerships, the private sector develops new programs, and the public sector pays, but only if the new programs have proven results.
“This innovative financial tool will bring the private sector to the table in a meaningful way and introduce a new funding stream to the effort to tackle Ohio’s most pressing problems,” Sprague said.
“By utilizing SIBs, we can unleash the power of the private sector to come up with innovative programs that produce better recovery outcomes than the programs the state is currently funding,” Sprague said.
“Increasing our recovery rates not only means healthier Ohioans, but could in turn help reduce state spending for Medicaid, Child & Protective Services and corrections, all areas that have been put under increasing pressure as a result of this crisis.”
Sprague, who was elected treasurer of Findlay in 2004 and city auditor in 2008, earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree, with an emphasis in finance, from the University of North Carolina. He worked for the international accounting firm of Ernst and Young before he began working in the public sector.
Sprague said through his work as Findlay’s treasurer and then auditor, he learned “firsthand the intricacies of local government operations and helped the city improve its credit rating and lower its debt service costs. As state representative, I served on the House Finance Committee, chairing the budget subcommittee dealing with one of the largest sources of state spending.”
O’Brien said her primary objective as treasurer will be to assess and manage risk to protect Ohio’s funds.
“I intend to preserve both capital and public trust by managing Ohio’s resources efficiently and conservatively,” O’Brien said. “I strongly support tax dollar transparency. I will work to bring more of Ohio’s government units into the treasurer’s Open Checkbook program. This user-friendly, easy to understand program shows how taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars are spent.”
As auditor of Ashtabula County, “I led a drive to get a commissioners’ tax increase on the ballot so our citizens could decide for themselves if they wanted higher taxes. They soundly defeated the tax increase by 78 percent. As auditor, I returned over a million dollars to our government subdivisions, because I did not use all the money allocated to me for a property revaluation,” she said.
O’Brien said Ohio places a great deal of responsibility on the state treasurer.
“I am the most qualified candidate. I hold a master’s degree in administration,” O’Brien said.
“Because of my 12 years service as county auditor, I have handled the most money (over a billion dollars) and managed the largest staff. I have years of experience in management and finance at the public level, as well as service on an investment advisory board. I will devote my time and attention to this office…”
O’Brien is a former junior high school and collegiate teacher.