MCM: What part of Flint are you from originally?
NK: I was born and raised in what is now Burton. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve lived in Burton, but most of my family, including two sisters and nieces and nephews live in the Flint area.
MCM: Where did you go to school?
NK: Kearsley High School, Class of 1975 – that was a long, long time ago. I earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in economics from Michigan State University. Yes, I have split loyalties!
MCM: How did growing up in Flint shape the person you are today?
NK: We are all shaped by where and how we grew up, and I can think of no better place to call home. Growing up in the Flint area has influenced the way I look at the world and the way I look at public policy. I saw firsthand the transformation of the Flint economy from the strength of the 70s to the hardships of the 90s. It’s amazing how that economic change happened in a single generation. Now, hopefully, Flint will be entering a new phase, not like before – those days are not coming back – but will still be able to provide a good life for all families in the area.
MCM: What is your fondest memory of Flint?
NK: Probably my first memory is working with my dad at our family-owned grocery store on Lewis Street. The world was different then – no big box stores. My father knew every customer and treated everyone like family. It’s a lesson in community that’s lost on most kids growing up today.
MCM: What jobs did you hold before your current position?
NK: My career has come full circle. I spent the first half in government, working in Washington D.C. for Congress, then as Chief Economist of the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, and Chief Deputy State Treasurer during the 90s. The second half of my career was spent in the private sector, where I recently retired as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for DTE Energy. It’s an honor to be asked by Governor Snyder to conclude my professional career serving as Michigan’s 46th Treasurer.
“It’s an honor to be asked by Governor Snyder to conclude my professional career serving as Michigan’s 46th Treasurer.”
MCM: How did your former jobs help move you forward to this point in your career?
NK: Throughout my career, I’ve always had a deep interest in public policy: how can we create and implement policies that improve life for all ten million Michigan residents? Michigan’s Treasury has a broad range of responsibilities, from administrating the state’s tax system, to collecting more than $40 billion a year in taxes and fees, investing over $65 billion of teacher and state employee retirement funds, advising the Governor on all tax and revenue policies, and assuring the fiscal health of local governments and schools. I hope having experience in both the public and private sectors gives me a unique advantage as we tackle such a broad range of tasks.
MCM: What’s the coolest thing about being treasurer for the great state of Michigan?
NK: Just about everything! A big part of my job is making sure all 1,500 Treasury employees have the tools and the clear expectation to move this department to become the best-operated Treasury department in the nation. I’ve been on the job for only a few months and we have a lot of work to do, but we have a plan and we are working that plan.
MCM: What do you hope for the future of Flint?
NK: My hope is that, collectively, we can solve the near-term problems, putting the city on a long-term path to fiscal stability, so that we can work to improve the culture and living standards for all residents. The financial troubles that plague Flint were years in the making and the recovery from those crises will, likewise, take time. But, with strong, prudent leadership and through a collaborative effort by all involved, I believe the City can again experience long-term stability. From a Department of Treasury standpoint, we will be assisting the City as we oversee the Receivership Transition Advisory Board appointed by Governor Snyder earlier this year, though my hope is that the need for such involvement will lessen in the months and years ahead, and Flint can return to full self-rule.