State Treasurer Janet Cowell: My Best Gift

My best gift of the season came in the form of observations from several people that I respect noticing that I have changed, evolved, and grown in my office.  The feedback means the world to me because it recognizes a lot of effort and growing pains during my first four-year term as North Carolina’s State Treasurer.

More broadly, this provides hope that all of us have the capacity to do things differently, move outside of our comfort zones. Given challenges in unemployment, education, healthcare, and budgets here at home in North Carolina, along with fiscal cliff and debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, our capacity and willingness to learn and change is a welcome message and will keep us moving in the right direction.

The phrase “Dance With the One Who Brung You” is popular, but not always good advice. Certain skill sets bring you so far in life, but must be complimented to remain competitive and at a top level. In my case, singularity of focus, “heads-down” intensity, and independent-mindedness helped me improve operations in the Department of State Treasurer. However, I realized in my first two years that I needed some new dance partners to be more effective for the people of North Carolina. I adapted to spend more time outwardly focused and utilize partnerships with the best and brightest of our state, ensuring we are always aligned to make the best decisions for North Carolina.

A number of you receiving this email were catalysts for my personal change on issues ranging broadly from increased public speaking on issues affecting North Carolinians to pushing the limits of physical fitness outside of the office. I am incredibly grateful for those of you who have believed in me, advised me, worked alongside of me, and made me laugh along the way. One friend even told me he was going to tell people he was a senior advisor to the State Treasurer. “On fiscal matters?” I asked.  “No,” he replied, “on wardrobe.”  While that may be further down my priority list, the care to make things better down to that level of detail is refreshing and appreciated.

This is not to say that I do not have room for growth and a need for improvement.  However, I do believe that we should all recognize and celebrate life’s small (and medium-sized) victories.  Being State Treasurer has given me a front row seat to fiscal matters and, right now, there is more to worry about than celebrate.

While we have many things to be grateful for here in North Carolina, there are a number of pressing issues facing us. We need to create more jobs. One of the biggest missed opportunities is better maximizing the good ideas coming out of our universities. We have increased our high school graduation rate to 80%, but need to continue to increase the number of students graduating from our community colleges and universities with job-ready skill sets. We need to collectively improve our health to better our quality of life and reduce health care costs.  Given our past successes at reinvention when needed, I am optimistic about North Carolina’s capacity to change to make us even stronger and better prepared for the future.

At the National level, our federal leaders must find the will to change how they have been conducting business, because their current approach is not working.  A down payment is desperately needed on our national debt and we must create a long-term framework for reducing that debt. Otherwise, our debt payments will crowd out investments in things like education and research and development that will provide a brighter future for our children.

As we ring in the New Year and bring in new leaders at the federal, state, and local level, my hope is that we individually and collectively do things differently and strive for better results. And as we work together to find solutions, I hope that we celebrate our victories, large and small, and recognize the efforts and growth around us.  I look forward to working with you, as we continue to build and maintain a fiscally strong and prosperous North Carolina.  I am glad we are on this journey together.

God Bless.

Janet Cowell