Jake LaTurner was sworn in as the Kansas State Treasurer on April 26. He replaced Ron
Estes, who was elected to the U.S. Congress. The 29-year-old is among the youngest statewide elected officials in the country. He answered 20 questions for the Sentinel after his first month in the office.
- What inspired you to get involved in politics?
The short answer is my Father and Grandfather.
The longer answer is that I was raised for a period of time in a single parent home, and my family experienced poverty. Dad showed courageous resolve when he returned to school and continued to work full-time. He has gone on to have a successful career as an educator and even served as Mayor of my hometown, Galena, for a period.
“Grandpa Joe,” as we called him, was an elected judge in Cherokee County—but we will talk more about him later. Neither my Father nor Grandfather attained great financial wealth, but they taught me the dignity of work and what it means to serve your community. I have long aspired to be a public servant like them.
- You’ve said you plan to run for state treasurer in 2018, what do you want to do after that?
I am incredibly honored to serve the people of Kansas as their State Treasurer. Right now, my focus is on the task before me.
- If you could wave a magic wand and institute any state policy, what would it be?
Whether you’re talking about the State Treasurer’s Office or government as a whole, I believe Kansans deserve to know more about the way public dollars are spent. Government operates more efficiently when the people hold it accountable. I hope to have a more extensive conversation with your readers on this topic in the not too distant future.
- If you weren’t working in state government or politics, what would you be doing instead?
Before becoming State Treasurer, and while I was in the Kansas Senate, I worked as a customer service consultant. I truly enjoy working with people, building relationships and finding ways I can assist others. One way or another, I’m sure I would be working in the service industry.
- What is a typical day as state treasurer like?
Having been in office just a few weeks now, I’m not sure I can answer what “typical” looks like. Besides encountering some highly professional and committed individuals on a daily basis, everyday has been different and enjoyable.
- What are some of the most important issues facing the state of Kansas?
Both in Kansas and around the country, there is a noticeable distrust of government and those in public office. Everyday people are demanding better from all levels of government and I understand where they are coming from. At the Treasurer’s Office, we are working to do our part to restore the people’s trust
- How would you describe your personal political philosophy?
During my last campaign for State Senate, I was described as a “conservative who wants to get things done.” I have no problem with that description.
- How has your political philosophy evolved?
I don’t know if my political philosophy has evolved. However, I believe life experiences can make you see things in a different, clearer light. For example, when I became a father for the first time, it gave me even greater reason to build toward our state and nation’s future. Ronald Reagan’s famous quote stating that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” comes to mind regularly.
- What’s the best part of being state treasurer?
Among other duties, returning unclaimed property to its owners has been a very rewarding experience. The Treasurer’s Office is currently safeguarding around $350 Million in unclaimed property. It’s always fun to inform someone that the government is going to return some money or property to them instead of appropriating from them!
- What’s the worst?
Navigating through the red tape within a government agency has been an eye opening experience. Despite all of this, the staff of the Treasurer’s Office performs at a high-level. It will take some time, but I believe we’re on the right path to removing some of those barriers.
- The state treasurer is somewhat a nonpartisan role, but you are known as a conservative. How does your political philosophy influence your role as state treasurer?
As someone who strongly believes in property rights, I feel a special sense of duty to return unclaimed property to its rightful owners or heirs. All Kansans, no matter their political affiliation, deserve to have their property returned to them. It’s their money. The same can be said for any of the other duties and functions of the Treasurer’s Office. Quality service shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
- What’s your biggest political win to date? (This can be a policy win or a personal win).
Being the chief sponsor of Simon’s Law was one of the most rewarding moments of my career. Named after Simon Crosier, the law protects medically fragile children from medical discrimination by ensuring a do-not-resuscitate cannot be placed in a child’s medical file without parental notification. Poor Simon had a DNR placed in his medical file without his parents’ knowledge or consent because he was diagnosed with a chromosomal condition and labeled “unfit for life.” As a result, he passed away after just three months on this earth. Others in Kansas and across the country report similar discrimination to what Simon experienced.
Though it took a couple of years to make it through the process, it was an honor to help craft legislation with Simon’s family, the pro-life Community and disability rights advocates. I will always be proud to stand for life—born or unborn— and to protect the most vulnerable among us.
- What’s your biggest political heartbreak to date?
The first time I ran for office was in 2008 and it was an unsuccessful bid for the Kansas Senate. Though I worked as hard as I’d ever worked and thought I ran a respectable campaign, I didn’t make it past the primary. That was certainly a character building chapter in my life. However, it taught me a lot about myself, the public process and gave me an even greater appreciation for my fellow Kansans. Thankfully, the people of the 13th Senate District gave me another opportunity in 2012.
- You were elevated to state treasurer in the middle of the 2017 legislative session. Any regrets or things you feel you left unfinished?
Besides the budget and the school finance discussions before the legislature, there is another proposal dealing with open records that I believe deserves further consideration. Since 2013, I’ve been working on a bill that, among other things, expands the number of meetings subject to the Kansas Open Records Act or KORA. The measure also places a cap on the amount of money an individual or entity can be charged for making the request.
I believe this legislation is needed, because many times citizens are not able to access public records because they’re charged a large fee to get the information. While the legislation has passed the Senate a number of times, it never gained much traction in the House. However, I have a feeling there will be a continued push for this legislation next session.
What, if anything, do you miss about the legislature?
Besides working very closely with some terrific individuals, I will miss certain parts of the legislative process. Being an executive is certainly different from the policy making role of the legislature. I was honored to be elected to the Senate twice, but am enjoying the new challenge.
- Who do you look up to and why?
As I mentioned earlier, besides my father, the person I’ve looked up to most in my life is my grandpa, Joe LaTurner. He had a good heart and treated everyone he knew with respect. Having serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he had to live with injuries he received while oversees. Thus, after the war, he had a difficult time doing the manual labor he was accustomed to. But, that didn’t stop Grandpa Joe from providing for his family. He persevered and got a job as the City Clerk of Galena and later ran for a judgeship in Cherokee County. Though few gave him a chance, Joe LaTurner beat a longtime incumbent and would serve as a judge from 1979 to 2003. When he passed away, the local paper credited him with having a “gut feeling for fairness.”
Though Grandpa Joe was a Democrat, his campaign poster hangs in my office today. Like many working class Democrats of his era, he started moving toward the Republican Party toward the end of his life. Values were more important than party to him.
- Who is your favorite public official?
I will always have great respect for Congresswomen Lynn Jenkins. I had the pleasure of serving as a member of her staff for a few years and greatly appreciated the opportunity to work in her Pittsburg office. Lynn is a genuine individual who works hard to connect with the people she represents—regardless if they would ever vote for her or not.
- Who is your least favorite public official?
- What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?
“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg was a fascinating read.
Also, I’m part of the way through “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” by Dr. Scott Hahn. Very good as well.
- Anything else Sentinel readers should know about you?
Over the course of the coming months the Kansas Treasurer’s Office will be conducting a 105 county tour. The goal is to bring the services the office delivers to your hometown and to every Kansas county. Currently, the Treasurer is charged with safeguarding around $350 Million in unclaimed property and would like to return it to its rightful owners. To check if you have any property the state is holding, please visit www.KansasCash.com.
We will also be educating Kansans about the Learning Quest 529 Tax advantaged college savings accounts administered by the office and ABLE Savings Accounts. The ABLE programs allows individuals living with a disability or their family to save for future expenses. I look forward to meeting you as we visit every part of our state.