Have you ever been treasurer?

I clearly did not have the cool or charisma to be class president—seventh graders somehow sense this without having to be told—yet my older brother had been a big shot four years before me, so I knew I was supposed to be something. Rather than run for president or “veep,” I ran for treasurer. It was not a hotly contested position. I was soon the 11-year-old treasurer of my class. Likewise, grades eight through twelve. Indeed, the last couple, I ran unopposed.

The duties of class treasurer, as I recall them, consisted of just one: to collect the annual dues. I was less the treasurer than the bill collector. And with dues set at $6 a year (less, I think, that first year; more by the end—you know how government tends to grow), I was a kid with some serious walkin’ around money.

Of course, I didn’t get to keep it. But 40 years later I have no recollection of depositing it in the bank, either. I don’t think we had a bank account. (And how would an 11-year-old get to the bank?) Perhaps there was some kind of account with the school itself—I would hand in my take at the end of the day to Mrs. Somebody. I just can’t recall. There was no audit committee.

Well, completely out of the blue, I was put up last week to be treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. For this there is a bank account. The DNC raised $53 million last year. Not as much as the Republicans—never as much as the Republicans—but still enough to open a bank account. (Indeed, $53 million is small potatoes. In a presidential-election year, it explodes.) We need campaign finance reform. But until we get it, neither party can disarm unilaterally.

So there I was at my first C-Span-televised DNC executive committee meeting Saturday morning (attending as a guest—the 445 members of the DNC make their determination March 20), sitting next to a nice woman named Mary Ellen Withrow. I knew her name because of the giant cards in front of each of us. When the meeting was over, she turned to me and very graciously introduced herself.

“I didn’t realize you were our new treasurer,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Mumble, mumble. (I am never at a loss for a distinctive comment.)

“You know, we have something in common,” she said.

It developed that she, too, is a treasurer—Treasurer of the United States.

“Oh, wow!” I said, thinking of free samples.

She was out of business cards, but in a sense I already had several of her “cards” in my wallet. And so do you. Check it out: Mary Ellen Withrow.

Can’t wait to know her better.


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