DALLAS - Texas Gov. Ann Richards on Friday named Longview Mayor Martha Whitehead as state treasurer, filling the week-old vacancy created by Kay Bailey Hutchison's election to the U.S. Senate.
Whitehead, 51, is a longtime Democratic activist, but is little known in financial circles or outside East Texas. Whitehead will be sworn in July 1 and will seek election next year, she said Friday.
Deputy Treasurer John Bell, who is running the office in the interim, said the staff is eager to work with the new treasurer. "We're going to cooperate 100% with the transition." Bell said.
The treasurer-designate is not widely known in the Texas bond community. She is a first-term mayor of Longview, a Gregg County city of about 73,000 people located in the heart of oil-rich East Texas, a region of the state that is politically important to the governor.
Whitehead has served on the Longview City Council since 1987 and is currently the vice president for resource development at Good Shepherd Medical Center in the city.
She serves on the board of the Texas Municipal League, which some believe will help in her new duties. "I think that will bode well for her as treasurer," said State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, an investment banker with Apex Securities.
At the treasury, Whitehead will oversee the investment of $16 billion of public funds, $7.5 billion of which is managed by the treasury through TexPool, the state's local government investment fund. She will also hold one of five seats on the Texas Bond Review Board, which must authorize all state-level debt.
The only independent securities sales for which the treasury is responsible are annual cash flow borrowings, which have ballooned in recent years. Bell, who has overseen the competitive deals, said that it would probably be October before the state is ready to sell notes.
Whitehead becomes the third consecutive woman to fill the treasury post. Richards, a Democrat, held the job before being elected governor in 1990 and Hutchison, a Republican, succeeded her that year. Hutchison last week became Texas' first female senator after a landslide victory in the June 5 special election.