The Office, present and past
How much do you know?
The Treasurer’s Office is one of six offices mandated by the 1863 Constitutional Convention held in Wheeling. Working in concert, the Treasurer’s Office and Auditor’s Office serve as checks and balances upon each other. The Treasurer’s chief functions are taking in revenue and paying out invoices; investing some $3 billion in short-term operating assets through the state Board of Treasury Investments; and administering the state’s Unclaimed Property Division and other programs which benefit constituents. The office is also tasked with keeping close watch over the state’s debt.
A treasured history
The Treasurer’s Vault, an iconic fixture in the Treasury’s Capitol reception area, features a 16-ton door and layers of reinforced Wheeling steel and concrete. Upon completion in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, the vault area had to be guarded with loaded machine guns and barbed wire atop the structure, to fend off the era’s notorious bank robbers. (Pic of vault)
No way I’m moving in there
Former Treasurer W.S. Johnson demanded extra vault security before moving into the present Capitol building. He had his reservations, to say the least.
In a June 1925 Clarksburg Exponent article, Johnson said, “. . . On account of the failure of those in charge of the construction of this building to provide a safety or burglar proof vault for the Treasury Department, I have decided to remain in my present quarters in the Capitol annex building where the state heretofore provided a good vault for the use of this department.
“. . . If satisfactory arrangements can be worked out for the construction of a vault for the treasury department on the first floor of the present building, well and good, but if not, it should be constructed on the first floor of the next office building, an in the meantime the treasury department remain in its present quarters where a fairly good vault is provided by the state.”
It’s unclear whether the Fayette County Republican had to move before a 1927 fire destroyed the “Capitol annex” to which he referred. The fire occurred roughly the same time workers were finishing the present East Wing, where his vault would be located.
Workers constructed the East Wing in 1926-27 and located the new vault there, where it remains today. Johnson eventually moved and received what he wanted from a security standpoint, marked by a 16-ton door. Johnson convinced architect Cass Gilbert and others that the extra $28,000 was worth it.
The annex was the third Capitol building to occupy Charleston since statehood and the second to burn. Jokesters called the wooden 1921-1927 building the “Pasteboard Capital.” Its predecessor structure from 1885-1921 also met a fiery doom.
Wheeling was the state’s first capital city, from 1863 to 1870 and again from 1875 to 1885. Charleston claimed the title from 1870 to 1875 and from 1885 until the present building opened to some West Wing offices in 1925.
Johnson did not get to enjoy the benefits of the new, super-reinforced space for long. He lost re-election in 1932.
Your Current State Treasurer
John Perdue is the 24th State Treasurer in West Virginia history. After serving as a Deputy Agriculture Commissioner and two terms as an executive aide to former Gov. Gaston Caperton, Treasurer Perdue assumed the Treasurer’s Office in January of 1997.
Treasurer Perdue is the longest-serving in state history, presently in his sixth term. In addition to day-to-day office responsibilities, the Treasurer oversees the Board of Treasury Investments, the SMART529 College Saving Plan, Unclaimed Property and West Virginia Retirement Plus, the state’s deferred compensation plan.
Additionally, Treasurer Perdue is also a past president of both the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) and the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). NAUPA has also presented him with its lifetime achievement award.