LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday named a utility executive to succeed state Treasurer Kevin Clinton, who the governor announced is leaving next month and is expected to return to the insurance industry.
Nick Khouri, senior vice president of corporate affairs at DTE Energy in Detroit, will be the third treasurer since the Republican governor took office in 2011. Khouri starts April 20 unless the state Senate objects.
Before joining DTE in 1999, Khouri was a vice president at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, chief deputy treasurer in former Republican Gov. John Engler’s administration and chief economist of the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.
“Nick’s expertise in tax policies and financial issues will be a great asset as we continue working to reinvent state government,” Snyder said in a statement.
Meeting with reporters, the 57-year-old Khouri refrained from listing many specific goals other than having the best-run treasury department in the country, saying he needs time to get up to speed on issues facing the agency.
The treasurer in recent years has had a more prominent role publicly because of Michigan’s aggressive intervention in Detroit and other deficit-ridden cities and school districts. In October, the department will be responsible for seeing through a law requiring Amazon and other online retailers to collect the state’s 6 percent tax on sales.
The state in 2016 will take over collecting the city income tax in Detroit.
“You need to listen a little bit before you act,” Khouri said. “Those first 30 days will be important.”
He hopes to stay on for the duration of Snyder’s second term.
“I’m at the age where I don’t mind turning out the lights,” Khouri said.
Clinton became treasurer in November 2013, replacing Andy Dillon, after heading the state’s insurance and financial regulatory agency since 2011. He will stay on until April 17 to help in the transition.
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Clinton had committed to serve in the cabinet through the governor’s first term, so his departure is not unexpected.
“Kevin served the state with honor and distinction as a key part of our team, dealing with many tough challenges including helping financially distressed cities and significant tax policy changes,” Snyder said.
Before joining state government, Clinton was president and CEO of American Physicians Capital Inc., a medical professional liability insurance provider in East Lansing. He is expected to return to the insurance and financial industry, but there is “nothing to announce at this point,” Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said.
Khouri, who has a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Michigan and a master’s in economics from Michigan State University, will make the same as Clinton, $174,204 a year. He currently chairs the state’s Investment Advisory Council, which oversees investments in state retirement funds.
Big pay raises given to Treasury Department investment officials in 2013 were criticized by Democrats in last year’s election.
Khouri called current salaries “about right,” saying that if an extra 1 percent is earned on $60 billion in public funds, that is $600 million more annually.
“While the salaries (are) certainly high compared to other state salaries, the impact of getting the right people and keeping them is pretty good,” he said.
The appointment drew criticism from Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson, who said “putting a registered lobbyist in charge of all taxpayer dollars … is no way to create public trust in government.”
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