Rhinelander’s Shidell running for state treasurer, promises unique agenda
The 2014 elections are just over a month away, but the campaign is just heating up for Rhinelander’s Jerry Shidell. A candidate for the office of state treasurer, Shidell’s campaign trail has recently taken him all around the state in a whirlwind of interviews and other appearances. However, this particular campaign for public office is an unusual one, touting a slogan that is a far cry from what Americans are used to hearing.
“Hire me, then fire me!” Shidell will gladly tell strangers while he is out spreading his message, often before grinning and adding, “I would be honored to be fired by you.” Shidell believes that the office of treasurer has no use, and hopes that by winning this election he will be able to abolish the position.
Shidell, now always prepared for a moment of politicking, carries with him a small bundle of pages that highlight every mention of the office of the treasurer in the Wisconsin Constitution. He emphatically points to Article VI Section 3, where it is stated that “The powers, duties and compensation of the treasurer…shall be prescribed by law,” which means that the office has no powers enumerated in the constitution aside from those granted through legislation. “The state legislature has taken away all its duties, but left the job. So let’s just eliminate the office and be done with it.”
In 2010 Wisconsin elected Republican Kurt Schuller to the office of the treasurer. Schuller ran on a similar platform—pledging to eliminate the position and to relinquish his seat after a single term. He was unable to accomplish his principal goal, but explained himself in an editorial in the Green Bay Press Gazette. “Twice during my term, it has been attempted to eliminate this office, and those efforts have failed. I see now those were efforts fated to fail. It is too constitutionally complicated despite what pro-eliminators are telling you to make this happen.” Schuller goes on to support the restoration of powers to the office, rather than the elimination thereof. He says that the proper place for taxpayer dollars and state financial programs, “is under the watchful eye of an elected official rather than an appointed bureaucrat.”
At 67 years of age, Shidell is no stranger to politics. Having previously served as Rhinelander’s mayor and recently on the Oneida County board, he feels confident in his ability to eliminate the office through the lengthy constitutional process. A lifelong member of the burgeoning Libertarian Party, Shidell firmly believes that his third-party status would give him a unique advantage in his mission and allow him to accomplish what in the past has fallen short. “This platform has failed in the past due to Republicans and Democrats feeling reluctant to eliminate a position held by a fellow Republican or Democrat. I can almost guarantee they would both love to see the Libertarian fired.”
He chuckles, adding, “I’ll be bridging the gaps between the two major parties!”
Article XII of Wisconsin’s Constitution lays out the process for the passage of any proposed amendment to the document, a process which encompasses the elimination of the office of the treasurer. A bill amending the constitution must first be proposed and subsequently passed in both houses of the legislature by a simple majority. Once passed, it must await the approval of the legislature chosen at the next general election. If it is passed by the two consecutive legislative sessions, it is put to the voters of Wisconsin as a referendum, whereupon its fate will be sealed.
It is not an easy process—“by design,” says Shidell. “But I have no problem with the process—we just need to get the process moving.”
The office of the treasurer has a list of duties that include the management of the unclaimed property program and other financial initiatives, overseeing monetary deposits and expenditures, and serving as the state’s chief banking officer, among others. These are all duties that Shidell says could be effectively placed in the supervision of different departments and offices and be run just as effectively.
Incumbent treasurer Kurt Schuller is not seeking a second term, in accordance with his campaign pledge. Despite that, this office’s election has a large field of candidates, second only to the office of governor in statewide offices. Shidell will represent the Libertarian Party against four opponents. Republican candidate Matt Adamczyk is also running on a platform of eliminating the office. In contrast, Dave Sartori (Democrat), Andrew Zuelke (Constitution) and Ron Hardy (Green) all hope to restore power to the office of the treasurer.
Shidell thinks that although the office is currently weak and inconsequential, it is preferable to remove it altogether than to restore its former authority. “Let’s not create another bureaucracy that will, again, have the tendency to grow. The only option is to abolish [the treasurer].” This view contrasts with that of Ron Hardy, who thinks that it is important to keep powers separate rather than consolidate them in a single branch or office.
The Libertarian Party has for several election cycles been a growing movement. Still, many people see their vote for a third party candidate as a waste. Shidell understands the reluctance to cast a vote that many people think will not matter or have an effect on the outcome of an election, but argues that such a fear is more relevant to positions that, as he puts it, “have authority, power, or influence; the governor, for example.” However, he reiterates that the office of treasurer has no such power. Furthermore, he hopes that his election would represent a mandate from the people of Wisconsin to the state’s legislative body. Says Shidell, “If you put a Libertarian in that office, you send a very sharp, pointed message, to the legislators in Madison: cut this office. Cut government. So in this case, you would not be wasting your vote, but instead making a very strong statement.”
The brief biography on the Facebook page for Shidell’s campaign very succinctly summarizes his position. “I want to eliminate the useless position of State Treasurer. I will run only for one term.” Shidell cannot wait to be fired by the people of Wisconsin. With his catchy sing-song-y slogan and clear message, he just might get his wish.
Elections will be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and both houses of the state legislature, as well as for Wisconsin’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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