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Reflections of Leadership

by Duane Davidson, CPA | Jul 16, 2019
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Editor’s Note: Washington State Treasurer Duane Davidson is a CPA and member of the WSCPA. Members had the opportunity to meet with Treasurer Davidson at WSCPA’s annual Hill Day in January and learn about his path from local office to Treasurer. We asked him to share some of that journey here. 

 As a steward of public funds, I am often reaffirmed with proof that what we do as CPAs, financially improving the people and institutions we serve, most certainly changes lives.

Perhaps the most valued endeavor I pursued during my four terms as Benton County treasurer was providing people with better financial outcomes. Today, as state treasurer, I continue to advance toward a similar point on the horizon.

Though it can certainly be challenging to navigate state level politics, at no time have I ever let go of the vision that brought me to serve in the first place — protecting and improving the financial livelihoods of those I serve, which I believe to be the foundational driver for just about any financial officer.

I am thankful that in the accounting world our practice often goes beyond numbers and spreadsheets, spilling into decisions that have the potential to lift others out of hardship and financially strengthen them. When I was elected state treasurer I carried with me the same drive to uplift and the personal sense of guardianship I felt for the people of Benton County. Moving to Olympia, I adopted a much larger family to protect, and upon arrival expanded many of the initiatives I started at the County.

In my first two years as state treasurer I authored legislation expanding local government investment opportunity (www.wscpa.org/WST-HB1284) and created a division focused on financial education (www.wscpa.org/WST-fin-ed) to help families manage their household budgets, loan payments, retirements and more.

I added financial learning modules and a Financial Education page to the Office of the State Treasurer’s website to help people learn about managing their finances. A first of its kind, my office introduced a depository of project funding resources to help local governments implement the infrastructure improvements they need.

From my seat in Olympia I find it important to occasionally take time and look back to appreciate how the path to this office was carved from a desire to improve things for the people in my own community.

Though I did not originally personally aspire for public office, I always wanted to help people and improve systems. After receiving my CPA license I worked as an auditor for the State Auditor’s Office, where I soon envisioned a better way to accomplish positive change for the County.

While sharing my ideas based on what I saw as an auditor with a colleague in the Auditor’s Office, he told me that if I could do a better job than the county treasurer at the time, I should run for office, and so I did. Much to my surprise, I actually won the election.

Without realizing it back then, earning my CPA would greatly enhance my ability to get where I am now. My credentials as a CPA automatically reinforced credibility with the people I encountered on the job and with voters.

When I look back to examine past experiences and reflect on today’s honor of serving as Washington’s chief financial officer, a vision frequently comes into focus. I see how I am now afforded this rare opportunity to reach all Washingtonians and improve lives on a colossal scale.

Now, more than two years into my first term, I recognize the similarities between serving as county and state treasurer, as well as the differences. The differences became increasingly evident as my first Legislative session as state treasurer commenced.

Benton County has a three-person commission, making it easy to establish trust with each commissioner regardless of any difference in political opinion. I knew each of them on a personal level, and we were able to come to decision points rather easily and implement initiatives quickly.

The state’s Legislature has 147 members. That is a lot of names, faces, and personalities to get to know, creating quite a challenge in earning trust from each legislator and finding common ground to help move an issue forward.

Regardless of the challenges, I am committed to the vision that brought me here, and the Washingtonians I proudly serve. As I did in Benton County, I consider myself lucky to work with an amazing staff at the Office of the State Treasurer who I can rely on to help navigate issues beyond political barriers.

In the end, I am a bean counter at heart. An accountant who sees both sides of the work. One side that maintains a high standard of service and produces financial results. And another side that is too often overlooked — the side holding the true value. This side embraces the opportunity to empower people, to help them make informed choices, and grow their potential.

It is rewarding as a public servant and corporate accountant to serve others, on the city or county level, and from a statewide point of view. I am reminded of our constituents when I reflect upon the work we do. There is seldom a more important motivator.

Duane Davidson - headshotDuane A. Davidson is Washington’s 23rd state treasurer and chairs the State Finance Committee and Public Deposit Protection Committee while also serving on five state boards, which manage a wide range of services and programs. Prior to being elected state treasurer, he was elected four times as Benton County treasurer. You can learn more about the office at www.tre.wa.gov.

This article appeared in the summer 2019 issue of the WashingtonCPA Magazine. Read more here.

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