ATLANTA -- Jim Ramsey, Kentucky's longtime bond czar, said Friday that he will leave state government July 3 to become chief financial officer at Western Kentucky University.
Mr. Ramsey, whose duties include overseeing all state-level bond issuance, has been credited with streamlining the state's borrowing since he set up the Office for Investment and Debt Management in 1981. The office is supervised by Kentucky's finance secretary.
"The offer gave me a chance to go back to my home university and to an academic setting, something I've been thinking about for a while," said Mr. Ramsey, who will become vice president for administration and technology. "Also, I felt it was just an excellent professional opportunity."
A successor has not yet been chosen, said Lisa Payne, executive assistant to state Finance Secretary Joe Prather. She said applications are being accepted and that Mr. Prather hopes to choose someone by early August. Mr. Prather, on vacation in Europe, was unavailable for comment.
Before becoming head of the debt management office, Mr. Ramsey was associate dean of the College of Business at Loyola University in New Orleans. While there, former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown offered to make him the state's first bond investment manager. Previously, the state treasurer had controlled bond issuance.
In 1988, former Gov. Wallace Wilkinson widened Mr. Ramsey's duties by making him responsible for revenue forecasting and economic analysis as well as debt management. Mr. Ramsey took on the title of executive director of the Office of Financial Management and Economic Analysis. He was also designated Kentucky's chief economist.
During Mr. Ramsey's tenure, he strove to coordinate the debt issues of Kentucky's 28 borrowing authorities and eliminate political influence from the selection process of bond professionals.
That effort has gained the respect of many in the municipal bond community.
"I think his leaving will be a real loss for the Commonwealth," said Claire Cohen, executive vice president for municipal finance at Fitch Investors Service. "He's been a leader nationwide in the move toward more effective state management of debt, particularly in the area of debt affordability."
However, Mr. Ramsey was not able to completely detach his office from the rough-and-tumble world of Kentucky politics. Last year, Mr. Ramsey testified before a federal grand jury reviewing the state's bond business during the administration of Gov. Martha Layne Collins, who held office from 1984 to 1988. Since 1988, the grand jury has been examining state bond deals underwritten in 1984 and 1985.
The inquiry, which began as a broad-based probe into the finances of Gov. Collins and her husband, Dr. Bill Collins, expanded into a review of bond underwriters who had participated in horse partnerships sold by Dr. Collins. Mr. Ramsey has denied involvement in any influence peddling.
Mr. Ramsey received a bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky before earning his master's and doctorate in economics from the University of Kentucky.