SAN FRANCISCO — Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski yesterday appointed Multnomah County chairman Ted Wheeler to be state treasurer.

Wheeler will be sworn in Thursday to replace Ben Westlund, who died of cancer Sunday. A permanent successor will be chosen by voters in November. Wheeler, a Democrat, said he will stand in the election.

“Ted Wheeler brings the perfect balance of expertise from both the public and private sectors to this job with an impressive record managing the county’s budget to a working knowledge of the financial industry,” Kulongoski said.

Wheeler will face competition. State Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Sen. Chris Telfer, R-Bend, both announced their candidacies after Westlund’s death.

The filing deadline was late Tuesday. After a May primary, the winner in November will serve out the final two years of Westlund’s term, which ends in January 2013.

The treasurer is Oregon’s chief financial officer, managing both the double-A-rated state’s debt portfolio and over more than $65 billion in investments through the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, the Common School Fund and other trust funds.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of this state and am well-prepared for the challenges ahead, but I am saddened by the circumstances that bring me here today,” Wheeler said yesterday as he accepted the governor’s appointment.

Wheeler currently serves as the elected chief executive officer and chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Multnomah, Oregon’s most populous county. He was elected in November 2006 with 70% of the vote.

He was previously a banker, working at Bank of America and Copper ­Mountain Trust. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University, a master’s of business administration from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard ­University.

“I’ve got a good resume for this job,” Wheeler said. “Frankly, I’ve thought for some time that I might run for treasurer at some point in the future. I never expected it to be this soon.”

He said he wouldn’t discuss specifics of the current issues facing the treasurer’s office until after he’s had a chance to meet with the staff and learn more.

Wheeler appointed Multnomah County chief operating officer Jana ­McLellan to serve as acting chair until the county commission chooses an interim chair to serve until the end of the year.

Voters will choose a permanent replacement in May.

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