ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After a national search, Minnesota officials turned to a hometown candidate and known hand to steer the state's $68 billion investment portfolio.
By unanimous vote, the State Board of Investment selected Mansco Perry III on Wednesday to be executive director — the first in more than three decades. Perry served for many years as a deputy in the office and most recently managed the endowment at St. Paul's Macalester College. He replaces former boss Howard Bicker, who is retiring next month.
Perry was the sole finalist interviewed publicly by the board, which is comprised of the governor, attorney general, state auditor and secretary of state. The search started with 55 candidates from the public and private sectors and was whittled down through several stages. Minnesota contracted with an executive search firm and paid about $100,000 for the personnel hunt.
It's the first new face at the top since 1981, when Bicker took over what was then a $6 billion fund. The state has averaged a 10 percent annual return during his tenure.
In bidding farewell at Wednesday's board meeting, Bicker said he tried to chart a steady course for a fund made up of public worker pension accounts and other state holdings.
"We may miss the big home run. We're not worried about that. We'd rather do just fine," Bicker said.
Perry, 60, said he has a similar investment philosophy: Stick to a disciplined strategy and avoid exotic investments that can bring big gains or terrible losses.
"I'm probably as conservative as Howard is although I'm willing to look at the new thing in the event that sometime down the road it becomes more traditional," Perry told the board in his brief interview preceding the vote. "I'm probably less faddish than Howard is."
Perry said the search firm approached him several times before he decided to lend his name to the mix.
He will earn a salary of $325,000 a year — almost three times the governor's pay. He was earning $319,000 at Macalester.
A father of two, Perry lives in Eagan. Away from investing, he's an avid collector of sports memorabilia who dabbles in baseball history, coin collecting and golf.
Perry is originally from New Jersey, but came to Minnesota to pursue a degree in history from Carlton College in Northfield. He later added a master's degree in business from the University of Chicago and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.
His professional career began in the private sector, working for well-known companies Cargill, Citibank and Dayton Hudson. He entered state government in 1987 as an analyst at the Department of Revenue before sliding over to the State Board of Investment, where he held various roles over 18 years.
His stint as the chief investment officer at the Maryland State Retirement Agency — a $33 billion enterprise — lasted only a couple of years. He has been back in Minnesota since 2010 at Macalester.
Judy Mares, the top investment officer at Alliant Tech Systems, was involved in screening candidates. She said Perry quickly rose to top and engendered "recommendations and respect from us and his peers within the industry."
After the meeting, Perry headed over to his former mentor for a handshake. Bicker smiled, telling Perry with a hearty laugh, "It's all yours baby."