Nancy K. Kopp
MSA SC 3520-12257
Born in Coral Gables, Florida, December 7, 1943. Attended Wellesley College, B.A.; University of Chicago, M.A., Ph.D. studies; National Defense Education Fellow. Married; two children.
Kornblith Kopp, a longtime public servant, was born on December 7, 1943,
in Coral Gables, Florida.1 After growing up in Illinois, Kopp headed East to attend Wellesley
College, where she was awarded a B.A. in 1965. She returned to the midwest as a graduate student in political science at the
University of Chicago, where she earned a master's degree in 1967 and completed the coursework for a Ph.D.2
In the early 1970's, Kopp moved to Maryland and worked as an aide to the Montgomery County delegation. She soon ran for a seat in the Maryland General Assembly herself, and was elected to the House of Delegates from Montgomery County in 1974.3 It was as a delegate that she met her two mentors, Lucille Maurer and Helen Koss, both inductees to the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, who would have a great impact on her career. Maurer became the first woman to hold the position of Maryland State Treasurer, while Koss, a delegate, was the first woman appointed to a standing committee in the House, the Constiutional and Administrative Law Committee.4 Kopp tried to follow the example of public service set by these women. Of Mauer, Kopp said: "To me, she's the model of a public servant. She was intelligent, dedicated and willing to go in and fight long, tough battles, battles that might last for years."5
Kopp's term as a Montgomery County delegate earned her the respect of her colleagues and her constituents. She was selected for numerous committees and groups, including the Legislative Women's Caucus and the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Kopp thrived in these environments. Senator Robert R. Neall, an Anne Arundel delegate who was sworn in on the same day as Kopp, said: "The thing about the Appropriations Committee is that you have to absorb huge amounts of information and then analyze it. She was as good at that as anybody I've ever seen."6 It was said that the Appropriations Committee issued a new rule after Kopp joined the committee--the Nancy Kopp rule. "It goes like this," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, "Anything Nancy Kopp wants, Nancy Kopp gets. And that's mainly because she doesn't want things you can't justify."7 This rule was only broken once, when Kopp, who had become Speaker Pro Tem in 1991, lost in her pursuit to oust House Speaker R. Clay Mitchell. Kopp challenged the Speaker because she felt it was her duty after efforts to discuss the issues failed: "I regret having to do this. I'm doing it because a number of people have come to me with serious concerns about the House and what they call a command rather than a consensus leadership style."8 Kopp's challenge to Mitchell garnered a great deal of support, but her attempt faltered when Governor William Donald Schaefer gave his support to Mitchell. In the end, she lost both that battle and her position as Speaker Pro Tem in 1993, but she did not lose the war. Mitchell promised to change some aspects of his leadership, and she continued as a member of the House.9
Although women were not a common sight in politics when Kopp became a delegate in the 1970's, she claims she has never felt any discrimination. Instead, she feels a kind of responsibility, "to address the problems of women and their families because of the opportunities I have been given."10 This sense of responsibility would define her role as a public servant.
When State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon resigned in 2002 due to health concerns, Kopp was elected as his successor. The Treasurer is elected by the General Assembly, and she recieved 135 of the 184 votes in the House. Sworn in on Februrary 15, 2002, Kopp became the second woman to ever hold the position of Maryland State Treasurer. She said of being elected to the office: "I can think of no greater honor than to be thought worthy of the office of treasurer."11 She would uphold that honor as she successfully mangaed Maryland's finances throughout difficult financial times. Maryland has kept its AAA rating throughout Kopp's time in office and at one point was only one of seven states in the country to hold that rating. Part of her success may be attributed to her patience and tenacity. According to David S. Iannucci, Gov. Schaefer's chief legislative liaison, "She is a steadying influence. When things go crazy and emotions are running high, Nancy's the person you can count on as a rock."12 Kopp was recognized by the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST), recieving the Distinguished Service Award in 2010. Her judicious approach was acknowledged by the president of NAST, New Mexico State Treasurer James Lewis, who said, "Nancy is looked to by her peers as a leader and a voice of reason as issues arise."13
As treasurer, Kopp is Chair of the Board of Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System and also sits on the Board of Public Works, one of her most significant positions. She is joined on the Board of Public Works by the Governor and the Comptroller. The Board is an institution unique to Maryland, and has control over state budgetary issues and contracts, including the power to cut funding for state programs and agencies up to twenty-five percent. In most states, the power to cut spending resides with the state legislatures. The genesis of the Board as established by the Maryland Constitution of 1864 is described by Roy Meyers, professor of political science and director of the Public Affairs Scholars Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County: "Board of Public Works -- it's kind of a strange name, a legacy of the progressive era when public works were infused with corrupt activities. The whole idea was to create a board that would not have that flaw."14 Politicians from other states have looked favorably upon the system. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commented, "That's what I need."15
In addition to her fiscal responsibility, Kopp is known for her devotion to improving Maryland's educational system, along with its availability and affordability. In 2004, she was named to the University System of Maryland Financial Aid Task Force after increases in tutition rates. As the head of a seventeen member panel, she examined and critiqued the financial aid policies at Maryland's eleven state universities.16 Kopp makes it a priority to travel to and stay informed about the universities in the state. During a visit to Salisbury University she said, "I see the university not only as a great educational institution but a driver of economic development for the state and that's why I like [to] get a feeling for how things are going."17 In 2004, with the support of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Comptroller William Schaefer on the Board of Public Works, she approved a contract for the construction of a new building for the liberal arts at Towson University in 2004.18
Kopp has also been an integral part of Maryland's committment to land and environmental preservation. She served on the Board of Public Works when it decided in 2009 to buy a 4,800 acre area of forest in Worcestor County on the Eastern Shore. The land's ecological value as a habitat for wildlife was considered during the process.19 Kopp also approved two deals to buy and preserve land in Queen Anne's and Baltimore Counties.20
Even with her busy work schedule, Kopp still finds time for her family--husband, Robert, a constitutional lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice, two children, Bobby and Emily, and two grandchildren. Kopp has keenly felt the competing demands of her work and her family, but believes her family recognizes the value of her committment to the state of Maryland: "I think they understand that I'm trying to make the community a better place for them and their friends."21
Nancy Kopp retired as State Treasurer in December 2021.
1. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Form. Return to text.
2. "Lawmaker Poised to be Treasurer: Analytical legistature from Montgomery is 'studying hard,'" The Baltimore Sun, 2 February 2002. Return to text.
3. "The Fall and Rise of Del. Kopp; From '93 Stumble, Deomocrat Ascending to Md. Treasurer," The Washington Pose, 5 February 2002. Return to text.
4. Women's Hall of Fame. Maryland State Archives. Return to text.
5. "Mauer, 73, dies of brain tumor; Former Md. legislator was the first woman to be state treasurer," The Baltimore Sun, 18 June 1996. Return to text.
6. "Lawmaker Poised to be Treasurer: Analytical legistature from Montgomery is 'studying hard,'" The Baltimore Sun, 2 February 2002. Return to text.
7. Ibid. Return to text.
8. "Speaker rebuts challenge from Nancy Kopp," The Frederick News Post, 11 December 1992. Return to text.
9. Ibid. Return to text.
10. "Montgomery's Kopp Touted For Legislative Limelight," The Washington Post, 17 March 1991. Return to text.
11. "Kopp wins another term as treasurer," The Capital, 2 February 2007. Return to text.
12. "Montgomery's Kopp Touted For Legislative Limelight," The Washington Post, 17 March 1991. Return to text.
13. News Release. Maryland State Treasurer's Office. 30 August 2010. Return to text.
14. "Financial Sway of Md. Panel A Rarity; Few States Provide So Much Power," The Washington Post, 26 August 2009. Return to text.
15. Ibid. Return to text.
16. "Week in Review; June 6-12," The Washington Post, 13 June 2004. Return to text.
17. "Maryland treasurer visits Salisbury University," Daily Times, 20 April 2009. Return to text.
18. "Funding for new Towson University complex OK'd; Board of Public Works approves $38.4 million contract for liberal arts building," The Baltimore Sun, 15 December 2004. Return to text.
19. "State OKs 4,800-acre purchase to preserve shore land," The Baltimore Sun, 8 January 2009. Return to text.
20. "Franchot, Kopp ok on land plan," The Baltimore Sun, 23 August 2007. Return to text.
21. "Montgomery's Kopp Touted For Legislative Limelight," The Washington Post, 17 March 1991. Return to text.
Biography written by 2012 summer intern Anne Powell; updated March 2022.
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