Andria Simckes is different from any previous candidate for Missouri Treasurer. I can say that confidently, without a glance at the records, and I defy anyone to find me another African-American Jewish woman who has run for that office or any other statewide office. Andria thinks it’s time for that to change. Time for an African-American to run statewide, that is.
Simckes is hardly running on race alone, though–or on being Jewish, or being a woman, for that matter. She has financial bona fides: she was comptroller for a $1.6 million budget for the Missouri Coordinated Campaign in 1996 and served as Executive Director of Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone, where she was responsible for $18.9 million in available funds and $130 million in bonding authority.
Simckes, who comes from a working class family, parlayed hard work and academic achievement into a spot at the top of her class at Brown University and a law degree from Washington University. The bio on her website shows that she’s always been involved in community service and remained so even when she withdrew from full time employment to have three children (now ages 6,4 and 2).
Andria says it’s time to get back into harness now, and those three little ones of hers are excited. When her husband took them to breakfast recently, they told him he should stand up and announce to everyone in the restaurant that their mom was running for state treasurer. And her six year old, Liam, knows that his mom has followed her political consultant’s advice (“Love your phone”) and spends three to six hours a day raising funds. So he recently lugged a water jug full of coins that they started for him when he was a baby (his piggy bank) into her bedroom and told her it was his contribution to her campaign.
Now that she has all her financial backing settled, Simckes can focus on policy. She has specific ideas about what she can accomplish as Treasurer. They range from the relatively wonkish to ideas that even postmen and retired English teachers can comprehend.
The wonkish idea is that she can return the Missouri MOST program to its former glory. MOST is a program where parents can invest money from the day a child is born for his future education. It’s supposed to provide better returns on investments than your local savings and loan could. And it used to. But Sarah Steelman rebid the process and awarded it to new providers. These new providers, who are in charge of investing the money, have tacked on various administrative fees, thus diverting money from the core savings program. Longtime investors in MOST have been noticing a difference, therefore, in the return on their investments these last four years.
Simckes’ proposal to eliminate that problem will only interest a small fraction of Missourians. But here’s another proposal that might interest you. The state holds 220 million dollar’s worth of unclaimed property (things like tax refunds you didn’t get because, say, you moved and the state didn’t have your new address). Andria says her husband had six different pots of unclaimed property and had no idea about it until someone called him and tipped him off.
There are companies (called heir finders) that will help you locate such property, but they can charge up to 30 percent of what you recover. Now supposedly, the state offers a free service that helps citizens find any such unclaimed property. But that service could be more accessible for people. In fact, it could be advertised. The state has done little, though, to help citizens claim this property, preferring to sit on the $220 million and watch it collect interest. Simckes wants that service improved.
And finally, she proposes to work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to improve financial literacy among high school and middle school students. Andria believes they need more information on how to balance checkbooks, how to save, when to save, and how to use credit cards wisely.
She has other plans as well, but I’ll stop at this point so that you can go check for your pot of gold in the unclaimed property room.