The county auditor may have the smallest staff of any Yellowstone County elected official: one full-time and one part-time assistant. The auditor is responsible for verifying that payments are appropriate before the county pays its bills.
Two good people are running for a four-year term as county auditor. Becky Riedl, the Democratic candidate, is enthusiastic about becoming a public servant. As credentials for county auditor, she cites her decades of experience auditing funds for labor organizations, administering large amounts of federal worker training funds and serving as trustee for multi-employer trust funds.
Scott Turner, the Republican candidate, isn’t campaigning actively for the auditor’s job, which he has held since late last year when the Yellowstone County Commission appointed him to serve the remainder of Debby Hernandez’s term upon her retirement. Turner is tremendously over-qualified for this post. He was the county’s finance director for 28 years before retiring nearly four years ago. He knows the county’s accounting system well because he helped develop it.
Before starting his long tenure with the county, Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings), became a licensed CPA with a private firm in Billings and worked as a professional auditor.
The citizens of Yellowstone County are fortunate that Turner is willing to continue serving as auditor and we recommend that they elect him to this office.
We salute Riedl who has been going door-to-door to meet voters and talk about the auditor’s office. Turner clearly has the greater experience and applicable skills for the auditor’s post, but we hope Riedl will find another opportunity to serve her home community with the energy she brings to this race.
Both Riedl and Turner told The Gazette editorial board that the auditor’s job isn’t partisan. We agree.
Montana law requires counties with populations over 15,000 to have an elected auditor. All but six counties, including Yellowstone, have opted to consolidate the auditor with another elected office.
Riedl told the editorial board she believes that the auditor should be an independent, elected office.
Turner has proposed consolidation and told us recently that the job probably could be done by a part-time auditor. As stated last year in a Gazette opinion, we also think that the county auditor’s office should be abolished or consolidated with another elected office. But the county commission opted against that consolidation, and state law requires counties to have an elected auditor — even though cities and school districts have no such mandate.
While we question the need for the auditor’s office, we are confident that the legally mandated job will be done with professionalism and integrity by Scott Turner, who skillfully managed Yellowstone County finances for three decades.