The Columbus Dispatch
October 1, 2018
However the vote comes out Nov. 6, Ohio voters will choose an engineer as their next state treasurer, and The Dispatch believes Republican Robert Sprague has an edge in experience that makes him the better choice.
Sprague, 45, is a state representative from Findlay. The Democratic contender is Rob Richardson, 39, a securities litigator from Cincinnati.
Both have undergraduate engineering degrees plus graduate credentials. Sprague couples mechanical engineering with an MBA; Richardson combines electrical engineering with a law degree. And it’s how they’ve applied their education that elevates Sprague’s qualifications.
In the legislature since 2011, Sprague has experience both as an elected official and as a government administrator, having served as city treasurer and auditor in Findlay before being appointed and then elected to the legislature.
With an MBA specializing in finance, Sprague worked as an Ernst & Young management consultant and then with his own investment consulting firm before returning home to Findlay. His business and government experience and education are more directly relevant to the treasurer’s office.
Richardson is the more charismatic of the two, but that will carry him only so far.
He served nine years on the University of Cincinnati board as a rare Democrat among Republicans and was able to effectively cross partisan lines, as evidenced by serving a year as president and being a board-elected officer five of his nine years on the board. During his tenure UC went from $20,000 in cash reserves to $300 million while also increasing enrollment and building aggressively.
During his time as a state representative, Sprague has developed a reputation for being sincerely committed to addressing Ohio’s drug addiction crisis, taking it on with legislative proposals as early as 2015.
As treasurer, Sprague would address drug addiction innovatively by creating “social impact bonds” through which investors could fund successful treatment programs, bringing in private capital to deal with the problem, not just throwing more tax dollars at it.
Granted, Sprague’s commitment to addressing the opioid crisis is not the best fit for the state treasurer’s office, but his education and experience should allow him to fulfill all statutory requirements of the job and leave room for him to test pioneering approaches for tackling one of the state’s most-pressing problems.
Richardson also has some good ideas for ways the treasurer could creatively respond to state issues that are not directly in the treasurer’s purview. He would oppose state investments in for-profit prisons and charter schools and would offer low-interest loans for college students who agree to stay in Ohio.
It is also commendable that Richardson started the first college NAACP chapter at UC, following somewhat in the footsteps of his father, Robert Richardson Sr., a national labor leader and head of the Cincinnati NAACP. But Richardson has no elective office experience, having only run for Cincinnati mayor in 2017.
Sprague’s good relations with the General Assembly are a plus.