WV Farm Bureau Magazine November 2014 - Page 23

money a little at a time – with tax advantages and the potential for growth – then the late crunch wouldn’t be so severe. Eventually, the SMART529 program was born. It is West Virginia’s officially sanctioned college savings plan, with assets totaling over $2 billion. Of 120,000 accounts nationwide, about 23,000 are owned by West Virginians at a value of $397 million. Perdue’s efforts in the college savings industry have made the program a nationally recognized investment plan. He says it’s one of his greatest accomplishments during his more than 17 year tenure as Treasurer. He concedes his modest background helped shaped his determination for the program’s creation. “It reminds me of simpler, less complicated times and when I sort of came into my own,” Perdue said. “I was discovering certain talents and some sense of leadership abilities. And there has always been something special about growing produce and working the land. I feel close to God and my roots.” When Douglass auctioned off Perdue’s strawberries, the youngster made a vow that he would work for the commissioner one day. He would go on to spend 16 years in that office, until incoming Governor Gaston Caperton recognized Perdue’s skills as a behind-the-scenes assistant who knew how to get things done. After his years with Gov. Caperton, Perdue defeated businessman Stan Klos of Wheeling Perdue’s beginnings were not unusual in the fall of 1996 and took office as Treasurer circumstances for a kid growing up in in January 1997. Since his first election, he southern West Virginia. To supplement income has been a champion for higher education and from the family general store, the Perdue financial education programs. family grew all manner of fruits and vegetables and sold them at roadside stands. “Nothing opens the doors of opportunity like education,” Perdue is frequently heard Saturdays proved especially lucrative. saying. John could help an older brother on the truck, just the two of them, learning the ways of In today’s world, even if a student qualifies commerce while bonding on country roads. for generous financial aid, shortfalls often occur. A college savings nest egg makes “We’d drive down into Mitchell Heights, handling those shortfalls much easier and Logan,” Perdue said. “Located where we were, reduces or eliminates debt. we could head that way or go into Madison and Danville. Those were booming towns back “It reminds me of how we used to yield a in those days. You’ve got to remember, this crop,” Treasurer Perdue said. “You’d till the was the 1960s and we’d shoot for $100 a day ground, ready the soil and plant the seeds. and usually hit it. We’d split it between us.” But that wasn’t the end of it. It was an ongoing process, right up until harvest. The Treasurer’s strawberries were always a huge hit. He won a Future Farmers “That’s the way it is with saving for college. of America contest, which meant longtime It isn’t always easy. It takes a while. But it sure Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass is nice when the reward is waiting for you.” would auction the berries. He did, for the For more information on the SMART529 familiar sum of $100. A photo of a thin, crewCollege Savings Program or to enroll, go to cut Perdue standing on the auction stage next www.SMART529.COM or call 1-877-767-8529. to Douglass is still proudly displayed in the Treasurer’s office at the State Capitol. West Virginia Farm Bureau News 23