UNO Professor Michael O’Hara runs for state treasurer


Professor Michael J. O’Hara, J.D., Ph.D. recently decided to run for the position of Nebraska state treasurer in the upcoming election. O’Hara is a professor in UNO’s Finance, Banking, and Real Estate Department in the College of Business Administration.
O’Hara decided to run for office because he always been inclined towards public service. In fact, he has done more than his fair share of public service as a faculty member. When looking at the available offices, he thought that state treasurer didn’t have a likelihood of drawing very many candidates, but that the position could benefit from having a contested election.
According to O’Hara, most people who hear about him running for state treasurer respond by asking, “We have one?” However, the state treasurer performs a variety of jobs. One job requirement of the state treasurer is to manage the money and pay the bills after taxes have been collected. In fact, the state treasurer manages Nebraska’s savings system for going to college. Nebraska’s college savings system is one of the best in the United States and has been during the reign of the last three treasurers. The system also consistently ranks as one of the best managed ones. The state treasurer also manages long-term health care savings plan. The treasurer’s office is also where all child support payments from the state go through. If elected, O’Hara hopes to make this process faster and automatic, while improving its accuracy. “They have done good things, but they could do better,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara’s has had plenty of public service experience to prepare him for the job of state treasurer. O’Hara previously served on the Omaha Public Power District Board as treasurer. He also spent time serving on the Gateway Student Publication Board and helped bring the newspaper a firm budget. He has also served on several other professional association boards and is used to looking at management requirements for large organizations.
“I have an idea on how to do the job, and I think I can do it better than the current occupants,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara already has a list of things he would like to accomplish and changes he would like to make if elected to office. One of these struck him while he was reading the Sunday Omaha World-Herald. The State Treasurer’s Office often puts an insert in the Sunday World-Herald which explains the unclaimed property report. After reading the insert for years, something began to strike O’Hara as odd—the top 10 properties that went unclaimed included Robert’s Dairy of Douglas County. According to O’Hara, the state is holding $49,700 -$572,000 of Robert’s Dairy’s money and can’t seem to fund them. Additionally, they can’t find a way to fund the First National Bank of Omaha.
“They can’t be trying very hard. The simplest part of the job is to go through the list of unclaimed property,” O’Hara said. “It goes through the state and the state is supposed to return it, but obviously they’re not making a very good effort to change that. I would like to have a positive impact by providing better services.”
If elected State Treasurer, O’Hara would also like to improve the way information is provided to the public.
“Nebraska has some of the most open and honest government in the world, and this is good,” O’Hara said. “One way you can see that is we have a transparency rating of a B+. I think we should have an A.”
According to O’Hara, the website is clumsy and hard to use. In fact, the website contains typos in the database that are necessary for data management, but make consumer interface difficult.
“The office isn’t doing some of the simple stuff such as tracking down numbers and setting up their database well,” O’Hara said. “We should have better.”
O’Hara has already won the primary election, which will take place on May 13, because he ran unopposed. However, his campaign will get much more active after Labor Day. During the summer, O’Hara will spend time traveling to county fairs to meet more people from Nebraska, get to know them and find out what their interests are.
If elected, O’Hara would be required to give up his tenured faculty position at UNO and move to Lincoln. However, his current priority is still teaching. Although O’Hara will be required to attend many campaigning events, he is determined not to let it interfere with his classes. Since O’Hara has been a candidate in previous elections, he has learned how to run a campaign without missing classes.
“I’m looking forward to campaigning and if elected to serve you.”