Ski Hi News -- Brett Barkey, district attorney for the 14th Judicial District whose jurisdiction includes Grand County, initiated last week his run for Colorado State Treasurer.
Barkey, who has served as the local DA since 2012, is running as a Republican and enters the race with an extensive background in the Federal Treasury Department where he worked in the Office of Foreign Asset Control overseeing interdiction of terrorist funding streams and sanctions on nations like North Korea. He also served 25 years in the Marine Corps and did three tours in Iraq.
Barkey explained his desire to run for Statewide office in context of his lifetime of public service. Barkey is term limited as a local DA and will not be eligible to run for reelection after his current term expires in 2020.
"The chapter I am in, that I have loved, is about to come to a close, whether I like it or not," Barkey said. "Serving the public, and the role I am in now has been a great honor."
He explained his campaign as an opportunity to take his background, professional experiences, and interests and apply them to public service work to make positive contributions. While many residents of Grand County may be familiar with Barkey, or at least some of the more high profile cases he has prosecuted as DA such as Brigid Irish and Connor MacLaird, many citizens may be far less familiar with the role of State Treasurer.
Barkey explained the main duty of the State Treasurer is to collect the state's receipts and distribute them appropriately.
"The State Treasurer essentially pays the bills," Barkey said. "The State Treasurer does not decide where funds go, but is the person through whom it all passes. A number of those funds are invested and the Treasurer is also responsible for that."
Barkey said safeguarding state funds would be his foremost duty if elected but highlighted three primary goals he would work towards if chosen by the voters of the state.
First, Barkey says he wants to ensure the State Treasurer's Office is the center of service for the County Treasurers of Colorado as well as special district finance departments and that the office is responsive to the requests and needs of those entities. Second, if elected he plans to make the office a more active voice in discussions of complex economic issues in the state – with a particular eye towards PERA related issues.
Third, Barkey wants to tackle wait times in the State's unclaimed property department. Barkey referenced recent reports claiming citizens sometimes wait more than a year after submitting requests to obtain their unclaimed property, which he termed an "unacceptable delay".
Barkey called discussions related to the Public Employee's Retirement Association, more commonly known as PERA, "the most important discussion" for the State Treasurer outside of the management of state funds.
"How PERA got into the present situation took a long time," Barkey said. "Everybody, from retirees, to employees paying into the system to the government entities and PERA management, everybody shares a piece of responsibility. Having said that it makes no sense to be anything but collaborative. Pointing fingers or laying blame is not helpful I believe."
Barkey highlighted the need to get all the entities involved with PERA together to negotiate and recommend solutions.
"These solutions will not be ideological or partisan," he said. "It has to be a broad consensus and any solution would have to be phased in [over time]."
Barkey spitballed multiple recommendations, which he stressed would part of a broader negotiation process, but highlighted his belief that defined benefits packages are likely going away.
"No other industry in America is doing that," Barkey said.
He discussed several potential strategies for addressing PERA's solvency issues ranging from increased contributions from employers, reduced benefits for retirees and delaying the retirement age. Barkey presented each of the suggestions in context of negotiations.
In all cases Barkey said he believes those currently at retirement age should not be subject to changes but that employees currently in the PERA system, who are still well away from retirement age, and new employees entering the system would see changes to their future benefits.
"I think everybody bought into a fanciful estimate of what they were going to get in terms of returns on investment that would pay for all of this," Barkey said. "I don't think you can invest your way out of that liability. That liability is so high because people overestimated what those investments would return."
Originally from Fort Collins Barkey went to Wheatridge High School and attended the University of Denver before going to Georgetown for law school. He was initially appointed DA in August 2012 to finish his predecessor's term. He was first elected in November 2012 and was reelected in 2016. Barkey is married and has two sons, one in high school and one in college.
When asked if he has political ambitions beyond State Treasurer Barkey responded, "I really don't."
He continued. "I have treated every job as if it is the last one I am going to have. I want to be committed to service and take them one at a time."