The road to the governor’s office used to run through the desk that sits right around the corner: The state treasurer’s office. Bill Owens was state treasurer before he was elected governor, as was Roy Romer. The trend was broken last year when former Treasurer Mike Coffman was pushed out of the race for governor by Bob Beauprez, but we may be seeing the old road to the top being rebuilt.

Democrat Cary Kennedy was elected State Treasurer in November in a close race over former state Sen. Mark Hillman in a race that was a minor upset (particularly since Hillman was the interim Treasurer for several months when Coffman was serving in Iraq). She’s a policy wonk in the best sense of the word (whatever the word ‘wonk’ means, anyway) and she’s largely responsible for some of the most significant economic decisions in Colorado in the last couple of years. Kennedy was the architect behind the education funding measure Amendment 23, and she was chief of staff to House Speaker Andrew Romanoff when Referenda C&D were crafted.

In her first couple of months on the job, Kennedy has already made a strong impression, as a recent Q&A in the Rocky Mountain News notes:

[Bill] Ritter appointed Kennedy as one of three co-chairs of his blue-ribbon commission on transportation. Ritter — and nearly everyone else at the Capitol — also hailed Kennedy after she came up with a solution to a nearly $20 million shortfall in health care funding…

…The running debate in this building is who’s smarter, you or Andrew Romanoff. Which is it?

Definitely Andrew. (Romanoff’s rebuttal: “Definitely Cary. I was just smart enough to hire her.”)

Kennedy is smart – she has an MPA from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Denver – and has a quick wit in much the same manner as Romanoff. Her ascension to one of the top jobs in Colorado makes her a true rising star in Democratic circles, and she could be poised to run for governor in 2014. But to get there she’ll have to first overcome one of the problems that blocked Coffman’s rise to governor: An interesting public persona.

Coffman is a relatively dull personality, which makes it hard for him to win a big race where the media is playing close attention. I think Kennedy also comes off a little dull because of her policy wonkiness, but she’ll grow into her public persona. If she does, she’ll be a favorite to be the next Democratic candidate for governor.