Known primarily as number crunchers and tax collectors, treasurers for state and local governments traditionally were limited to activities like processing payrolls, managing budgets, safeguarding pensions and being the target of accountant jokes.

But in recent years, some of these workaday officials have taken on a role as public visionaries, pushing through experimental policies aimed at lifting the fortunes of low- and moderate-income families.

In San Francisco, an effort by the treasurer, Jose Cisneros, to give poor people free or low-cost bank accounts has been replicated in more than 100 cities. Emulating another San Francisco initiative, Nevada’s treasurer, Kate Marshall, developed the first statewide college savings account s in the nation for every child entering kindergarten in the public schools. And in Chicago, Stephanie Neely, the treasurer, has introduced a financial literacy curriculum in public schools.

“This is a new phenomenon with treasurers being involved in improving financial lives,” said Heidi Goldberg, a program director with the National League of Cities.

Read the rest at