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Voters to elect new McKenzie County Auditor

Posted 10/27/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With Frances Olson not seeking re-election as the McKenzie County Auditor, area voters will be choosing between two candidates to serve as the county’s auditor during the 2010  General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Seeking the post of county auditor is Sarah Billing of Watford City and Jodi Hayden Hanson of Arnegard.
This week as part of the McKenzie County Farmer’s coverage of the local races that area voters will be deciding next Tuesday, we asked each of the candidates running for the County Auditor position to respond to a series of questions dealing with issues pertaining to that office.
The questions posed to each candidate and their responses follows.

As the chief financial officer for the county, what do you see as being the most important role of being McKenzie County Auditor and what skills do you have to meet that role?

Billing: The most important role of being the McKenzie County Auditor is to prepare accurate and timely financial statements. Much of the success of the county depends on the auditor doing this work well, which includes being in compliance with all laws and regulations. In working as a certified public accountant, I have many years of experience in both public accounting firms and large publicly traded companies. I know precisely what is involved to consistently and efficiently preparing accounting records and budgets that meet the highest standards.
Hanson: The Auditor is responsible for primarily all business activity of the county. This not only includes tax receipts, oil revenue, and other income but also disbursement of the revenue. This must be done according to state law and the direction of the county commissioners to the benefit of the residents in the county. My responsibility is to make certain the county receives the revenue it is entitled to and to manage the fair and equitable distribution of that revenue.

As the person responsible for administering elections in McKenzie County, how would you suggest improving voter turnout?
Hanson: I believe the public needs to be well informed of the election procedures such as notification of the availability of absentee ballots, the location of the polls in each precinct and the times they are open, and which city and county positions or measures are final with the primary election in June and those which are final with the general election in November.
Billing: To improve voter turnout, I would publicly promote the magnitude of how important each citizen’s vote is and impress upon all that each election has consequences. Our future and that of our children is much too important to not take the time to vote. The importance of their participation cannot be understated, each vote does matter and our involvement is the key to our democratic society. Elected officials work for us and our votes are the best way to make our voices heard in that process. I would encourage all McKenzie County voters to do their duty and get to the polls. As the county’s chief election official, I will ensure that every eligible ballot is counted and that the voters’ right to cast a secret ballot is protected. I will work to make voting locations accessible to McKenzie County citizens.

A large portion of the County Auditor’s job is dealing with the public as well as many governmental entities.  What in your background prepares you for handling these duties?

Billing: To deal with the public and other governmental entities, it is essential that the auditor present a professional demeanor and be willing to listen. The auditor, elected by the public, must be willing to serve the citizens and be available to personally meet with them and address their concerns. Having worked as a controller for a large public company, I have interfaced with all company departments, outside agencies and vendors and am comfortable communicating with a number of different entities.
Hanson: Dealing with the vast number of issues due to the current economic level will be a huge task. We have major issues in roads, housing, and human resources that will be critical to the county’s continuing prosperity. My experience in interacting with the public on a daily basis for the past 14 years along with my positive and professional attitude will be very important. My experience in county government over the past 11 years not only in McKenzie County but also in Williams County, will provide a strong working platform for me as I undertake the task of County Auditor.

The County Auditor’s office handles a wide range of human resource issues for the county. What skills do you have in human resource management?

Hanson: Human resource issues can be the most critical part of any job. It is important for me to stay neutral and open-minded and listen closely to everyone that may be impacted. Input from county employees and the public is essential to any decisions being made.
Billing: One of the county’s single most important investments is its employees. The county’s employees work every day to keep our community safe and running well and they deserve a human resources manager that can consistently and confidentially apply the county’s policies. I have many years of experience as a supervisor, I always strive to see that my duty and responsibility to uphold the county’s policy is applied in the most consistent and fair-handed manner possible.

If you could share one message with the voters of McKenzie County as to why they should elect you to serve them what would it be?

Billing: To the voters of McKenzie County, I believe you deserve a skilled accountant. One who will be a public servant and has many years of working experience handling complex financial and budgetary issues. In having worked with large organizations that deal with these issues on a regular basis, I am capable and willing to tackle the needs of McKenzie County. I will work hard to provide quality, timely services and be a frugal steward for the taxpayers’ money. The opportunity to be your county auditor and contribute to our distinguished community would be a profound honor that I would take on with great energy and enthusiasm. I humbly ask for your vote on Nov. 2.
Hanson: My number one priority is to serve the public and to do my job to the best of my ability. I have an established working relationship with the employees of the county and understand the functions of each county office. I look forward to taking on the new challenges involved with being County Auditor and feel I am a dedicated employee to the county.