Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
State Treasurer Denise Nappier (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — After two decades in office, state Treasurer Denise Nappier announced Wednesday that she won’t be seeking re-election.

As the first African-American woman elected to serve as Treasurer, Nappier’s tenure began when she defeated Paul J. Silvester, a Republican incumbent who would later serve prison time for giving more than $500 million from in state pension funds to private investment funds in exchange for kickbacks.

Nappier said the job, like the market, is a rollercoaster.

“I always say to people it’s not so much what I earn, but what did I earn relative to what the market would bare,” Nappier said.

During a long press conference in her Elm Street office adjacent to Bushnell Park, Nappier said Connecticut was “high up” right now in terms of performance, so maybe it was time to go.

She said the state will have to deal with its unfunded pension liabilities — a topic for which she’s beaten the drum on numerous occasions.

Nappier said greater attention was paid to the state’s unfunded pension liability after the recession hit because the funding ratio was low, but she added that she had been raising the issue with lawmakers for years prior.

“They would say Denise is a real nerd,” Nappier said, adding that she was the highest-ranking state official to make a stink about the unfunded pension liabilities before the recession.

“There’s no question the state is going to be in for some very difficult times because the contribution is going to go up and up,” Nappier said, referring to the state’s annual contribution to the pension funds. The actuarily require amount is rising faster than it should based on previous failures to set aside the money for investment.

“The state hasn’t been contributing enough even when they do contribute because they assume more is going to be earned,” Nappier said. “That hurts us when we don’t get it right.”

She said she doesn’t see the “dark clouds” of a market correction on the horizon, but that wasn’t a factor in her decision not to seek re-election.

She said Connecticut’s unfunded pension liability is so dire that there’s no “portfolio investment composition” that can address it. She said even if she stayed on and Connecticut had the number one investment portfolio in the country, “that is not going to eliminate the unfunded liability.”

She said that very time she has testified before the legislature, dating back to 2000 and 2001, she has pointed out the state’s unfunded pension liability.

“We didn’t get a lot of coverage because no one saw it as a problem,” Nappier said.

She said she’s stepping aside so someone with fresh ideas can take the reins. She did not offer any endorsement.

“Who wouldn’t want to leave on top?” Nappier said. “I reached the conclusion that it’s time. It’s time. It’s time for a new blood.”

The month of January before an election year is a time when many politicians not seeking re-election announced their intentions.

Nappier, 66, said she would be getting some rest, but won’t be retiring anytime soon.

“I’m too young to retire,” Nappier said. “… I can’t afford to retire.”

But she won’t be seeking elected office.

She said there are numerous ways people can impact people’s lives outside of electoral politics.

At least three Democrats may be lining up to run for the post. They offered their compliments for Nappier’s decades of service.

Arunan Arulampalam, a Hartford Democrat who is exploring a run for state treasurer, thanked Nappier for her service and “cleaning up the mess left by her predecessor, protecting our pension plans and taking a national lead on tighter regulations on financial institutions and corporate governance.”

Shawn Wooden, a partner in the Hartford law firm Day Pitney and bond counsel for the state treasurer’s office, said Nappier restored integrity to the office.

“She’s also been a leader in financial literacy efforts and corporate governance reforms,” Wooden said in a statement.

John Blankley, a Democrat from Greenwich exploring a run, said he was impressed “by her commitment to the movement for diversity on company boards, an activism that has contributed to greater gender and minority representation in the governance of corporate America. Her service will be long remembered and I join with others in wishing Ms. Nappier a well-deserved retirement from public service.”

Toward the end of the hour-long press conference, Nappier criticized Connecticut’s news media for not covering her shareholder activism regarding corporate governance or her investor summit on climate risk at the United Nations.

“If I had been a different person in this office, you guys may have covered it,” Nappier said.

Asked what she meant by “different person,” she said “maybe if I had been a little more persuasive.”

State Treasurer Denise Nappier announces she won’t run for re-election

State Treasurer Denise Nappier announces she won’t run for re-election

Posted by on Wednesday, January 3, 2018