State Treasurer Don Stenberg began his career at the state Capitol in 1979 and is leaving public service after stints in the governor’s office, as Attorney General, and as Treasurer.
We asked Stenberg if it seems real yet that he is leaving state government.
“Yeah, it’s pretty real,” Stenberg says with a chuckle during an interview in his office. “The pictures are off the wall and most of my files have been gone through and dealt with as appropriate. So, yeah, it’s real.”
Stenberg first came to state government as legal counsel to Gov. Charley Thone, serving Thone from 1979 to 1983. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Stenberg went into a private law practice. He won election as Attorney General in 1990 and re-election to two more terms, serving as AG from 1991 to 2003.
Stenberg has faced frustration, unsuccessful in attempts to run for United States Senate.
A minor controversy broke earlier this year when a state audit disclosed a $2.6 million account Stenberg had kept off the state accounting system. The state Auditor criticized keeping an account off-the-books and the fact that it earned no interest.
Stenberg defends the account, stating his predecessor set it up at First National Bank of Omaha to accept administrative fees paid by those participating in the state’s various college savings plans. Stenberg argues the money in the account does not belong to the state, but instead to the College Savings Trust.
“Our current Attorney General changed that opinion in August and immediately after that I moved those funds into the state accounting system,” Stenberg tells Nebraska Radio Network, explaining his predecessor, Shane Osborn, set up the system in accordance with a legal opinion at the time. “When the Attorney General (Doug Peterson) basically changed the ruling of a prior Attorney General, we moved those funds as directed by the Attorney General.”
Stenberg says there is a very real difference in the positions of Attorney General and Treasurer, with the nature of Attorney General bringing the officeholder into conflict situations while Treasurer helps people save for college, returns unclaimed property, and teaches financial basics to Nebraska students.
As for his future, Stenberg believes politics might be behind him.
“Well, I think it’s unlikely that I would run for office again,” Stenberg says. “I think if I were to do any additional public service, it would be in some appointed position. But, again, I’m not looking for a job right now and really just looking forward to taking some time off.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]