Wednesday Jul 15, 2020

Dale Folwell

State Treasurer State of North Carolina

Dale Folwell, State of NC Treasurer – *VIRTUAL* Regular Club Meeting Online

Mary introduced our speaker, who has been the state treasurer since January 2017. He oversees the $105 billion state pension fund for more than 900,000 public workers, as well as the State Health Plan for more than 720,000 current and retired public workers. He is proud of helping the state maintain the AAA bond rating as of 2018 with all the major rating agencies.

The treasurer began with his financial concerns for the state. He said rural North Carolina has been struggling financially, not just in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, but for the last 20 years, because of loss of population and loss of revenue. For instance Tyrell County has few resources to rely on as its sales tax revenues are dropping. Yet, Congress allocated a big chunk of the $4 billion in COVID-19 assistance in the CARES Act to three urban counties and one city, which left little for the rural areas, like Tyrell, that need it the most. (He said $471 million went to Wake, Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Charlotte.) Folwell is working for the next stimulus bill to send more to rural areas. “The money should follow the citizen,” he said.

For the recently ended fiscal year, the state pension plan is up 4 percent, Folwell said. Moody’s gave the plan a number-one rating for solvency and ability to be funded eight months ago, when stock market and employment were high and interest rates were low.

Folwell touched us deeply by mentioning his personal connection to the Gate City Rotary Club. After his son died at 7 years old, they granted him an honorary Paul Harris Award. “Service above self,” he said, quoting the Rotary motto, is a reminder of what our country would be like if all politicians adopted the 4-Way Test.

We enjoyed a lengthy questions and answers period:

When Jim asked about the state pension plan, and praised Harlan Boyles, Folwell quickly responded: Harlan Boyles was one of the greatest state treasurers in the United States. But in those days, it was pretty simple to be treasurer when bond interest rates were 21 percent. Now, they are zero. Forty billion dollars are invested in fixed income, so the rest of the money has to take more risk. And since the 1970s, people have been retiring earlier while life expectancy has gotten longer. More than 7,000 pensioners are 90 years old or older.

Jim then asked him how he was feeling since his experience with COVID. Folwell grew emotional as he recounted it. In March, someone who was listening to him during a remote call told him that he didn’t sound great. After testing positive, a chest X-ray showed his lungs were gray, like his suit, which was a bad sign. Fortunately, he had an oxygen meter at home because he used to race motorcycles. When his oxygen levels fell, he asked his wife to take him to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital, was sent to ICU. He was administered oxygen, hydrochloroquine and Z-PAK. He fought against being ventilated. With “monastic concentration,” Folwell focused on his breathing for about five hours, until his oxygen levels started rising. Today, he said, I have the “energy of a teenager.”

Treasurer Folwell put in a public service message for, the state website for unclaimed property. For instance, a woman recently found out that she was missing a $600,000 life insurance policy. Other recovered treasures include World War II medals. It is free to search for and receive any property that you are owed.

He signed off with this: “I salute all of the monuments men and monuments women of the Sunrise Rotary Club,” alluding to the 2014 George Clooney movie, based on a true World War II story of Service above Self.

[Notes by Rachel Hardy]

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