Slama, Spellerberg, Royal, Biar among state treasurer applicants

Pillen to pick replacement for Murante as state’s banker

By: - September 7, 2023 5:45 am

State Treasurer John Murante testified this spring before a Nebraska legislative committee in favor of a bill that would ensure state funds aren’t used by banks for social or political goals. Murante led a national group of GOP state financial officers who opposed so-called ESG investing. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect a fourth confirmed candidate.

LINCOLN — This year, Gov. Jim Pillen has the only vote for state treasurer that matters. Pillen’s appointed successor to John Murante will serve until voters get a say in 2026.

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

The governor has not hinted that he has any favorites among the handful of Republican candidates who have told the Nebraska Examiner they might be interested in the job.

The treasurer effectively functions as the state’s in-house banker and financial adviser. Ambitious politicos often view the job as a statewide springboard to higher office.

Former Gov. Dave Heineman, for instance, served as treasurer before being appointed lieutenant governor by then-Gov. Mike Johanns.

Four known applicants

Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg (Courtesy of City of Fremont)

Four potential candidates — State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg, former treasurer candidate Taylor Royal of Omaha and Assistant State Treasurer Rachel Biar of Dorchester, Neb.  — confirmed this week that they had applied.

Former Treasurer candidate Taylor Royal (Courtesy of Royal campaign)

Slama, a lawyer, chairs the Legislature’s Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed her to the Legislature in January 2019. She won election to her post in 2020, during one of the state’s most contentious Republican primary elections, defeating Janet Palmtag.

Nebraska Assistant State Treasurer Rachel Biar (Courtesy of National Association of State Treasurers)

Spellerberg, whose family owns Moostash Joe Tours, is considered by some as a rising Republican. He is known for his work in economic development.

Royal, a financial adviser, ran for treasurer in 2018 and for Omaha mayor in 2017.

Biar has worked in the Treasurer’s Office for nearly two decades, serving four different treasurers. She oversees the state’s college savings plans.

Two decide to punt

Theresa Thibodeau

Two candidates who considered applying — State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair and former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha — said this week that they decided to pass on the opportunity.

The Governor’s Office closed its public application process Wednesday afternoon and did not immediately release a list of applicants.

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


More people than those discussed have likely applied.

Nebraska Democrats did not expect a serious applicant because Pillen, a Republican, is unlikely to consider someone from a competing political party.

Quick decision likely

Political observers expect the governor to schedule interviews and make a decision quickly. The treasurer oversees programs from child support payments to college savings plans.

Gov. Jim Pillen speaks during a press briefing. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Murante was chosen last month to lead the Nebraska Public Employee Retirement Systems. In an Aug. 30 letter to the governor, he resigned effective 11:59 p.m. Sept. 18.

This will be Pillen’s fourth major appointment of an elected official. He appointed Ricketts to replace U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., after Sasse resigned to lead the University of Florida. He appointed State Sen. Carolyn Bosn of Lincoln to replace then-Lincoln mayoral candidate Suzanne Geist. He also appointed his own replacement on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, former Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk.


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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.