Outgoing NAST president cites advocacy, collaboration

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Deborah Goldberg’s one-year presidency at the National Association of State Treasurers was eventful, to say the least.

Goldberg, the second-term Massachusetts treasurer and receiver general, coordinated efforts by state financial officers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that ranged from a push for federal funding to troubleshooting.

“If you do not support states and localities, you will not see a full recovery,” said Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

“On a positive note, we learned that we at NAST — the state treasurers and the other finance officers — as a group we were able to collaborate and share many solutions,” Goldberg, a Democrat, said in an interview.

“Also, we became important advocates in Washington, D.C.”

Goldberg’s work included discussions with past and current U.S. Treasury officials, and Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair set to become Treasury Secretary when Joe Biden becomes president next month.

That included a “fireside chat” in July she co-hosted with former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.

Goldberg also appeared on cable network CNBC three weeks ago, calling for direct aid to states and municipalities.

“If you do not support states and localities, you will not see a full recovery,” she said.

In addition, NAST officials and members were adjusting on the fly to procedures related to the CARES Act relief bill, which passed in March. That, Goldberg said, involved frequent communications with federal officials.

“An awful lot of nuts and bolts were involved but it was something very new to everyone,” she said. “This is background when sadly you’re hearing about many people getting sick.”

Utah Treasurer David Damschen, who preceded Goldberg as NAST president, praised her for seamlessly shifting to a virtual approach as the pandemic escalated.

“Treasurer Goldberg has united us as members and increased our engagement to try to provide for the best possible fiscal response to the pandemic at both the state and federal levels,” Damschen said. “She has skillfully led the organization through the most severe health and economic crisis our country has experienced in this century."

Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, a Republican, will succeed Goldberg.

“Kelly Mitchell is a collaborator,” Goldberg said. “She brings a point of view similar to me in that she has a very strong desire to maintain bipartisanship. Kelly will be very similar in that regard.”

Goldberg called the latest rescue package, a $900 billion measurer that President Trump signed into law Sunday, “a shame” because of its lack of direct aid to states and cities.

“Some very bright people who are economists are concerned about states and cities,” she said. “I’m afraid it became a bit of a political football the last two weeks.”

State and local leaders had to scramble amid the pandemic because a coherent federal response was lacking, Goldberg said.

“There was no comprehensive approach to who pays for PPE [personal protective equipment], vaccine distribution and keeping hospitals and their staffs running,” she said. “This is not a blue-state or red-state issue.”

Goldberg’s local experience include six years — and chairwoman for two — on the Board of Selectmen in Brookline, a Boston suburb. She is a former executive at the Stop & Shop grocery chain. Her family founded the original store in Boston.

As state treasurer, Goldberg has been active with community outreach that includes financial literacy. Her Office of Economic Empowerment’s “Money Talk Tuesday” virtual shows, for instance, discuss identity protection, financial wellness, retirement planning and other topics.

A strong economy, she said, hinges on such initiatives that she likens to preventive health care.

“It’s like the thigh bone connecting to the knee bone,” she said. “If you give people the tools they need, they’ll be empowered to make the right decisions and not get into financial distress.”

“The pandemic highlighted this even more. People have really profound needs. The people in our office had to pivot quickly."

Goldberg’s office also oversees the state lottery and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, while her office appoints members, as does Baker, to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Ironically, said Goldberg, she doesn’t, gamble, drink or smoke.

She said her office will continue to lobby to expand the lottery, which began in 1972, to online betting.

Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden will be NAST senior vice president next year and South Dakota Treasurer Josh Haeder will be secretary-treasurer.

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Coronavirus National Association of State Treasurers Commonwealth of Massachusetts Deborah Goldberg Massachusetts Washington DC
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