Who wants to be Nebraska’s next state treasurer? Big names interested

Five people to watch as the process to replace John Murante begins

By: - August 28, 2023 5:00 am
Nebraska State Capitol Building

The Sower atop the Nebraska State Capitol (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — State Treasurer John Murante confirmed last week that he intends to leave his elected office to lead the Nebraska Public Employee Retirement Systems. 

John Murante speaks before a legislative committee
State Treasurer John Murante testifies in March. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Speculation about who might replace him as treasurer began within minutes of word that Gov. Jim Pillen would select the replacement for a post that often springboards the holder to higher office. The treasurer is the state’s in-house banker and financial adviser.

The Governor’s Office said Friday evening it will “announce an application process to find a well-qualified new treasurer” once it receives a resignation letter from Murante. Several people with knowledge of the process expect Pillen to act quickly after the treasurer formally resigns. 

Potential candidates

The office is already hearing from potential applicants, several Nebraskans considering applying told the Nebraska Examiner. Here are some potential candidates, based on our reporting:

State Sen. Julie Slama, District 1. (Courtesy of Craig Chandler / UNL Communications)

* State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, a lawyer who chairs the Legislature’s Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.

Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg (Courtesy of City of Fremont)

“I am interested and will be applying,” Slama said. 

* State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha, a business owner who finished fourth in the 2022 GOP primary race for governor. 

“I think I could do the job well,” Thibodeau said. 

* State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, a chiropractor who chairs the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

Former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau

“I’m not saying yes, and I’m not saying no,” Hansen said.

* Taylor Royal, Murante’s GOP primary election opponent for treasurer in 2018 and an Omaha financial adviser.

“I’m qualified and considering it,” Royal said.

Former Treasurer candidate Taylor Royal

* Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg, a rising local official attributed with helping his city grow. His family owns Moostash Joe Tours. 

“I have heard from people about it,” Spellerberg said.

State Sen. Ben Hansen, District 16. (Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

Another name bandied about online but who could not be reached to confirm interest was State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, a farmer with a business background.

The most common suggestion of potential candidates had no name. A dozen Republicans contacted said some variation of, “There’s probably a guy Pillen knows from Columbus.”

Not interested

Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb said she did not expect any high-profile members of her party to apply because there is “no chance Pillen would pick one.”

Suzanne Geist introduces legislation before a legislative committee
Then-State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln introduces legislation. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Other people discussed as potential candidates around the Capitol told the Examiner directly or through surrogates that they would not pursue the $85,000-a-year job.

The no-thank-yous include former Treasurer Don Stenberg, former State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and former Nebraska State Patrol Col. Tom Nesbitt, who ran for the office in 2010.

The next election for treasurer for whomever Pillen appoints is 2026.

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.