Every year since 1994, Governing Magazine honors eight to ten local or state government officials for their outstanding work. California State Auditor Elaine Howle will be honored on November 5 as Public Official of the Year.
Elaine Howle, after working for almost 30 years in the state auditor’s office, was the first women appointed California State Auditor in 2000. She has held that position for the past twelve years, through three governors and six legislative sessions.
The California State Auditor’s office is a non-partisan agency with a mission “to promote the efficient and effective management of public funds and programs by providing to citizens and government independent, objective, accurate, and timely evaluations of state and local governments’ activities.”
Howle’s office is responsible for a wide number of tasks. Not only do they conduct the annual financial audit of California’s complex financial statements, but they also make sure that California is in compliance with federal regulations relating to the billions of federal dollars that the State receives every year. Ms. Howle supervises investigations of potential fraud and abuses in state government. Her office has the power to identify state agencies that are facing major challenges in terms of efficiency or effectiveness, audit them and report them.
Ms. Howle has been given responsibilities that goes beyond the usual prerogatives of an auditor. Proposition 11, passed in 2008, created the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a state agency composed of citizens who draw the boundaries of state legislative districts. Ms. Howle and her office were entrusted to select the citizens who would sit on the commission. Being chosen for this task was a recognition of the respect her work has had over the years as well as the truly nonpartisan nature of her office.
The Public Official of the Year Award is the last, but not the least, acknowledgement of Elaine Howle’s work this year. For the first time in California, three cities have declared bankruptcy. As a result, Auditor Howle has found herself tasked with the oversight of local government financials — an unusual mission for a state auditor. The fact that, in these tight financial times, the State Legislature raised the California State Auditor’s budget is another example of their confidence in Ms. Howle’s work. Her budget was increased by 47%, totaling $8 million. These funds allow her to hire 50 more auditors and increase her office’s investigation resources, especially in high-risk areas.
When Elaine Howle will receive this award in November, California can be proud to have such a dedicated government official, and hopeful that Ms. Howle and her office will do everything they can to work towards resolving the state’s financial problems.