Suffolk native retires from state post

Published 9:05 pm Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Christmas morning, J. Braxton Powell will fly to Colorado, where he’ll have dinner with his 1-year-old granddaughter Sally to help celebrate her very first Christmas.

It’s the kind of trip he could get used to.

Powell – a Suffolk native – is retiring after almost three years as the Treasurer of Virginia.

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He has been with the Department of Treasury for 25 years, and he has been a commonwealth of Virginia employee for more than four decades.

“I’ve served a little over 40 years; I figured it was time to take it easy,” Powell joked during a telephone interview from his Richmond office on Friday. “The driving force, I think, was more my wife. She retired three years ago, and we haven’t fully enjoyed our retirement. I just decided it was time to join her.”

Effective Dec. 31, he will retire from a career that started decades ago almost on a whim.

Powell had just graduated from Virginia Tech, and was looking for a job in Roanoke, where his wife was working as a teacher.

He went to the Virginia Employment Commission to look for work, and the staff at the commission quickly found him that work, hiring him there as a field tax representative.

“They actually interviewed me the same week and hired me,” Powell said.

His work as a representative with the commission led to a promotion to the Department of Management Analysis and Systems Development, where his job was to study some of the state’s departments for consultation.

In his five years in that role, one of the 20-25 departments Powell studied was the treasury department. Powell said he became interested in a job with the department following that study, and before long he was transferring to the cash management work of the treasury.

“My degree was in finance,” Powell said. “That kind of made a good fit. I would finally get into something I had been to school for.”

For 25 years, Powell worked for the department in various capacities, including director of financial policy, manager of cash and banking and cash administrator.

In 2000, Powell was named Deputy State Treasurer by then-Gov. James Gilmore, and Gov. Mark Warner extended the term. Then, in 2005, Gov. Tim Kaine appointed Powell as the State Treasurer.

“I’m kind of proud of the fact that I crossed party lines,” he said. “You see a lot of different things, different governors, different styles. They’re all different. I greatly appreciated Gov. Kaine’s confidence in me in appointing to be (Treasurer). It was an extremely nice way of topping off my career, and I appreciate it greatly.”

In a statement to the press, Kaine praised Powell’s service to the state throughout his career.

“Braxton Powell has been a rock of continuity at the Department of the Treasury, making sure our treasury management systems work smoothly. His steady leadership will be missed,” he said.

Heading into retirement, Powell said he is looking forward to a slower pace than he had in his career.

“I think I’ll enjoy mostly just being able to relax – sometimes this job gets stressful with all the meetings, deadlines,” he said. He added he likes to travel and imagines he’ll get to do more of that now with more time.

And that might include a trip back to his native Suffolk, where he says he still has family, including his brother, Bill Powell.

“I was born and raised there,” he said. “It’s changed quite a bit since I was there. When I was there it was a little city, a little town. It had, I think, 10,000 people, and back then it was Nansemond County and Suffolk. It certainly has changed a lot.”