Annapolis, Md. - There were rumors she was so ill she would never return to work. There were rumors she would be replaced by the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. Her own neurosurgeon told her before surgery, "You known, we don't control everything."

All the talk proved premature.

Just four months after surgery to remove a benign tumor that had been pressing on her brain, Treasurer Lucille Maurer of Maryland is ready to be sworn in as president of the National Association of State Treasurers.

Now almost fully recovered from the surgery. Ms. Maurer attributes her rapid recuperation in large part to the prospect of heading up the treasurers association.

"After I had the surgery, I kept thinking, 'How am I ever going to be ready to be Sworn in?' "she said. "I honestly believe that speeded my recovery."

Though she is still undergoing some outpatient physical therapy, Ms. Maurer plans an active tenure as president of the state treasurers group. She said she wants to work primarily on building the group's growing reputation in Washington and on increasing the respect accorded state officials.

"We have a good organization." she said. "It's grown in strength and stature. Our role in Washington is recognized now. as we provide comments on significant policies, legislation, and regulations."

Traditionally, she said, state officials often have been treated "like dirt" by their federal compatriots. Ms. Maurer noted that at a meeting with U.S. Treasury officials several years ago to discuss recent tax law changes, "their attitude was, 'You're a special interest.'

"The time has come when we cannot afford that attitude," she said. "I deeply believe that in our federal system, we have to be partners. One of the things we need to reiterate, reiterate, and drive home is that if our system is to do well, we have to be partners in spirit as well as in word."

Meeting Practical Needs

Another area where Ms. Maurer hopes to concentrate her energies is in providing practical help to state treasurers so they can better carry out their responsibilities.

She notes that treasurers' needs differ because their duties vary. For example, some are responsible for cash management, some for bond issuance, and some for unclaimed Property. Providing timely educational programming to treasurers is essential, Ms. Maurer said, in helping them "manage in times of duress."

Ms. Maurer said building upon the group's fraternal atmosphere is one of the best ways to provide its members with the services they need.

"As we get new treasurers, we have to get them into the family of treasurers," Ms. Maurer said. "There is a certain collegiality in our group, and I hope to continue that. We talk to each other, not just at business meetings, but on an ongoing basis."

Treasurer Eddie N. Moore Jr. of Virginia has been a beneficiary of Ms. Maurer's philosophy of openness. He noted that when his state was gearing up to undertake an analysis of debt affordability, something Maryland has done for more than a decade, Ms. Maurer was happy to provide assistance.

"She's been very helpful," he said, adding that "of all the treasurers, she's the one I keep most closely in contact with. I just believe it's an excellent choice" to have her as president of the treasurers group.

Credit analysts also rate Ms. Maurer highly.

"She's an extraordinarily competent and talented woman," said Claire G. Cohen, executive vice president of Fitch Investors Service Inc. "She has got great personal skills, and I have a very high regard for her. I think you'll only find people who have very positive things to say about her."

Richard Larkin, a Standard & Poor's Corp. managing director, said Ms. Maurer, in addition to being "another in a long line of fairly conservative fiscal managers that are kind of a hallmark of Maryland state government." is straightforward, outgoing, and friendly.

George W. Leung, a Moody's Investors Service managing director, said Ms. Maurer has a good grounding" in government; with experience at both the state and local levels, and has been "quite diligent" in ensuring the state provides financial information to the ratings firm in a timely way. He summed up, "She's a pleasure to work with."

Ms. Maurer was born and raised in New York, graduating from Spring Valley High School in Rockland County. From there she went on to the University of North Carolina and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in economics and political science.

Her first job was with the U.S. Tariffs Commission, where she earned $3,000 a year as an economist. She later went on to Yale and received a master's degree in general studies. She said most of her courses were in economics, though she also studied anthropology and psychology, which has really come in handy" during her career.

She then married, and slowly but surely found her way into public life. Ms. Maurer jokes that she got into local politics because her husband, a legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, always took the front section of the newspaper, leaving her with metro news.

'Something's Wrong'

While raising her three sons, Ms. Maurer got involved in their school's Parent-Teacher Association and the League of Women Voters, and ultimately got elected to a local board of education in 1960. She served there until 1968. In 1969, she was appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates to fill a vacancy, and was thereafter kept in office by voters for 18 years.

She made an unsuccessful run for a seat in the state Senate in 1987. But the General Assembly then elected her to be state treasurer, making her the highest-ranking woman in the state government and the first ever to be treasurer. Maryland is one of a handful of states where treasurers are elected by the legislature.

Lawmakers in 1991 unanimously re-elected her for another four years.

Earlier this year, some apparently believed Ms. Maurer would be unable to finish out the remainder of her term. Back in April, while attending a dinner sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the AFL-CIO, she lost feeling in her right foot. She reached out and grabbed the arm of state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, exclaiming, "Louie! Something's wrong."

Laid out on the floor to await paramedics,, Ms. Maurer somehow kept her sense of humor. She laughs as she recounts how someone came over and asked her if she was trying to "out-Bush Bush," a reference to President Bush's unceremonial bout with flu while in Japan. A friend also appeared at her side, saying, "I'm not a doctor. But I am a lawyer."

Neurological tests at the hospital uncovered the tumor, and surgery ultimately followed. Ms. Maurer said that when word of the operation got out, her office was flooded with people "measuring the drapes."

One of the hottest rumors in town had Ms. Maurer being replaced by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., who has said he would like to be treasurer when he retires from the General Assembly. But the Kent County Democrat called Ms. Maurer in the hospital and said he was not the source of the rumor. It is now believed the gossip flowed from people eyeing Mr. Mitchell's own spot as House speaker.

"That's politics," Ms. Maurer said with a shrug. She added that, "oh, sure," she'd be interested in serving another term as treasurer. "I never rule out possibilities," she said. "I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy the staff, I enjoy the work."

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