Spotlight: Vanessa Sievers '10
In January, Vanessa Sievers '10 will take office as the youngest Grafton County Treasurer in history. As treasurer, Sievers hopes to prove to some of her skeptical constituents -- including three-term incumbent Republican County Treasurer Carol Elliot -- that not all Dartmouth students are oblivious to the world outside the bubble. Sievers is confident that she will successfully invest Grafton County's assets. $18 million? No big deal.
What led you to run for treasurer?
I joined the executive board of College Democrats during my freshman winter. It was great getting involved in the 2006 elections, great working for Lebanon Mayor Karen Liot Hill '00. During that election, she really showed me that young people should be involved in local politics. Also during that election, the Democrats discussed how they hadn't challenged the Republican incumbent Grafton Country Treasurer Carol Elliott, during any of the three terms that she had been in office. They really wanted a Democrat to step in. This spring, the chair of the Upper Valley Democrats came to me and asked if I would be willing to run.
Why did you say yes?
I've always been really involved in politics, I've always believed in giving back to the community, so I thought, "Why not?" I guess it's just my personality. With things like this, I'm apt to just go for it. At Dartmouth, I'm usually involved in the financial side of the organizations I'm a part of because I think it's really important in the workings of the whole community. I know I can be helpful. I know I can do this.
What will your duties be as treasurer?
Well, I still have to go to the clerk's office and go through the specifics. Generally, Elliot goes to the office about one day a week, judging by her budget, so I'll try to go two days a week and sign all of the county's checks. I'll also invest money for the county -- there's about $18 million that need to be invested. Elliott has only been investing in local banks to try to support the local economy. I think that the best way to support Grafton County is to invest on a larger scale and get the most money back, so that we can support all of the taxpayers instead of just a few local banks. Especially during this time of economic crisis, it's really important to look for and take advantage of the best options.
Are you nervous about the responsibility? Does $18 million create a lot of pressure?
Yes and no. I obviously don't have experience investing $18 million, but I worked for two local companies in Montana, essentially doing the treasurer job for them. I guess I do feel pressure in some sense, but I'm pretty confident that I will do a good job. Honestly, I think it would be hard to severely mess anything up because there's a board of elected officials that has to approve all of the decisions I make. There are checks and balances. Do you hope to accomplish anything that is specific to the fact that you're so young?
A lot of people think that Dartmouth students have no sense of reality, that they're supported by their parents, have money thrown at them and just live within the Dartmouth bubble of DDS. That's not true with everyone. A lot of Dartmouth students are completely in touch with the world of investment. Some adults say that College students shouldn't get to vote in the communities because the campus is so disjointed, but a lot of students volunteer in the community and are involved in politics. I hope that my role exposes people to that.
What is it like being an elected official at such a young age?
It's kind of cool. I think I'm the United State's youngest county treasure in over 130 years. It actually really surprised me. I tried searching it on Google, and I'm still not sure, so maybe I'm wrong, but I think there was one guy that was younger than me back in the 1800s.
Are you worried about balancing school and your job?
No, I don't think it will be that difficult. I'll put a lot of effort into finding the investments each month, but I don't think the job will consume every minute of my life. It's a part-time job, and I take classes three days a week. It should be fine. If it does become a problem I'll prioritize the my job as treasurer because it's actually real, it's actually affecting people's lives.
How does your position as co-chair of Bait and Bullet factor in to your Democratic affiliation?
I drive a Yukon XL, and I'm co-chair of Bait and Bullet, so I seem like the biggest Republican on campus. But the car wasn't my choice! I really am involved in environmental issues, despite my terrible car. As for gun issues, I grew up hunting in Montana, so yeah, I'm all for Second Amendment rights. Everyone has variations -- I'm probably about 90 percent in line with the party, but I do have my own take on some of the issues. I'm definitely a Democrat, and honestly, treasurer is not a very political position. What I'm trying to do is make the most money for the county.
So, are you getting pumped about starting?
You know, it's kind of weird when people I don't really know or haven't seen in a long time come up to me and say, "Oh wow you're county treasure now!" and I'm just like, "Oh, yeah." But I don't know what more to say! [Laughs] I'm really excited about it, and I'm looking forward to doing a lot in the position, but I guess it hasn't really sunken in yet. It's hard to say what I think -- I don't start until January!