Office of State Treasurer

aka: Office of Treasurer

The treasurer of Arkansas is the state’s financial officer and one of seven constitutional officers elected at large. Responsibilities of the treasurer, who is part of the executive branch of state government, include receiving and keeping monies collected by the state, managing and investing funds, and disbursing funds according to state law.

In 1819, the territorial legislature created the position of treasurer, and the first to serve as territorial treasurer was James Scull. The constitution of 1836 established the position of state treasurer, though it was not a popularly elected position. Instead, the treasurer was selected by a vote of the Arkansas General Assembly. William E. Woodruff, publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, was the first to serve as state treasurer. The constitution of 1861, which was instituted following the secession of Arkansas from the Union, retained this means of choosing the treasurer. In 1864, the Union government, which occupied Little Rock (Pulaski County) and large portions of the state, ratified a new constitution to ensure recognition and financial support from the federal government; this constitution required that the state treasurer be chosen by the electorate. The Reconstruction constitution of 1868 reaffirmed this requirement. The current Arkansas constitution, written in 1874, basically repeats the previous one’s language regarding the treasurer: “The treasurer of State, Secretary of State, Auditor of State and Attorney General shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by law.” The duties, however, are not delineated in the constitution itself.

The five divisions of the state treasury department cover local government services, cash management, investments, receipt processing, and warrant redemption. The first oversees fund distributions to county and city governments. The cash management division coordinates state fund transfers, distributes revenue to state agencies and institutions of higher education, and balances the general ledger each day. The investments division manages state investments in trust funds, banks, certificates of deposit, and the like. The receipt-processing division verifies all funds deposited in the state treasury, while the warrant-processing division takes care of those checks issued by state agencies for payments for services rendered.

One state treasurer, Thomas J. Churchill, later served as governor. Jimmie Lou Fisher, who served as treasurer from 1981 to 2003 and who ran for governor in 2002, oversaw the movement of the treasury’s operations to computer systems and is the state’s longest-serving treasurer. The state treasurer serves in other posts, such as the secretary of the State Board of Finance; ex officio member of Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees, Arkansas Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees, and Arkansas Development Finance Authority Board of Trustees; and member of the Arkansas State Highway Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees and the Arkansas Rural Endowment Fund Board of Trustees.

TREASURERS

Name Party Began Ended
William E. Woodruff 1836 1838
John Hutt 1838 1843
J. C. Martin 1843 1845
Samuel Adams 1845 1849
William Adams 1849 1849
John H. Crease 1849 1855
A. H. Rutherford 1855 1857
John H. Crease 1857 1859
John Quindley 1859 1860
Jared C. Martin 1860 1861
Oliver Basham 1861 1862
Leroy B. Cunningham 1862 1864
E. D. Ayres Rep 1864 1866
Leroy B. Cunningham 1866 1867
Henry Page Rep 1867 1874
R. C. Newton Rep May 1874 Nov 1874
Thomas J. Churchill Dem 1874 1881
William E. Woodruff Jr. Dem 1881 1891
Richard B. Morrow Dem 1891 1895
Ransom Gulley Dem 1895 1899
T. E. Little Dem 1899 1901
H. C. Tipton Dem 1901 1907
James L. Yates Dem 1907 1911
John W. Crockett Dem 1911 1915
R. G. McDaniel Dem 1915 1919
Joe Ferguson Dem 1919 1925
Sam S. Sloan Dem 1925 1925
Dwight H. Blackwood 1925 1927
Ralph Koonce Dem 1927 1931
Roy V. Leonard Dem 1931 1935
Earl Page Dem 1935 1945
J. Vance Clayton Dem 1945 1961
Lee Arthur Clayton 1961 1963
Nancy J. Hall Dem 1963 1981
Jimmie Lou Fisher Dem 1981 2003
Gus Wingfield Dem 2003 2007
Martha Shoffner Dem 2007 2013
Charles Robinson 2013 2015
Dennis Milligan Rep 2015
Note: Treasurers were appointed by the legislature until 1864. No parties are listed for those appointed (Blackwood in 1925, Clayton in 1961, and Robinson in 2013), all appointed to finish terms.

For additional information:
Arkansas State Treasury. http://www.arkansas.gov/treasury/index.html (accessed January 16, 2020).

Goss, Kay C. The Arkansas Constitution: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated: 01/16/2020