Vivek Malek speaks in the Missouri House chamber on Jan. 17, 2023, after being sworn in as State Treasurer (Photo courtesy Missouri Governor’s Office).
Vivek Malek began his tenure as Missouri State Treasurer on Tuesday surrounded by hundreds of friends, including some he helped become Americans.
Malek, a Republican appointed by Gov. Mike Parson to replace Scott Fitzpatrick, elected state auditor last year, said the turnout that filled the Missouri House chamber to watch him take the oath of office was an inspiration.
“This is a proud moment for Missourians, for everybody, for Americans, for all of us, and especially for people who have migrated to this country and made this country their home,” Malek said to reporters after he was sworn in.
A native of India, Malek is the first person of color to hold statewide office in Missouri. He arrived in the state a little over 21 years ago to study business at Southeast Missouri State University. He had already had an undergraduate degree and a law degree from Maharshi Dayanand University and after receiving a master’s degree in Missouri, he obtained a master of law degree from the University of Illinois.
He practiced immigration law in St. Louis until his appointment in December.
Malek, Parson said during the swearing in ceremony, is an example to everyone who wants to make America their home.
“We expect them to come here, we expect them to work hard and we expect them to prosper in their lives,” Parson said.
Parson has appointed five statewide officeholders as incumbents move to other elected positions. He said he’s learned that the appointment has to the right person and that Malek impressed him with his hard work and devotion to doing the job for the people.
“To be the first (person of color) is one mighty accomplishment after coming to this country the way he did,” Parson said.
The treasurer’s office handles all state funds from tax collections and federal support, moving billions of dollars each year. In December, the cash balance in all accounts was $16.4 billion.
The office also oversees programs designed to help families save for education needs and help businesses obtain discount loans linked to state deposits. The state treasurer also manages $1 billion in unclaimed property, money that was in abandoned bank accounts and deposit boxes, among other sources.
Parson announced Malek as his choice on Dec. 20. Fitzpatrick resigned Jan. 9 to be sworn in as state auditor but Malek’s swearing-in was delayed until Tuesday to give him the maximum time in office.
Under the Missouri Constitution, a treasurer may serve two four year terms. However, anyone serving more than two years after being appointed treasurer may only be elected once. The ceremony Tuesday was timed to be one day less than two years of Fitzpatrick’s term.
His job, Malek said during his speech after being sworn in, will be to get taxpayers the best rate of return on cash balances, support the growth of the Missouri economy, and “promote the promise of America.”
Speaking to reporters, Malek said he would take some time to settle in before making any major changes in the office.
The treasurer’s office generally receives little public notice, but Fitzpatrick pushed it into policy actions in late 2021 when he required school districts to certify they were not imposing mask mandates or other COVID-19 rules in defiance of orders from then-Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Malek was unable to say Tuesday if he would continue the policy.
“We are so thankful that COVID has passed us,” he said, “and that is a policy question I will have some time to ponder before I make a decision on this.”
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