Incumbent Republican Karen Martin faces challenger Marjorie Denton Sanborn, a Democrat, in the race for Walla Walla County Auditor.

The auditor is responsible for a wide variety of functions, including supervising elections and voter registration, maintaining county records such as marriage licenses, the licensing of motor vehicles and vessels, and overseeing the county's accounting department.

Auditors also oversee the process of drawing proposed maps when the county goes through its redistricting process, which Walla Walla County recently concluded.

The Walla Walla County auditor is paid an annual salary of $86,176.

What future do you see for the Walla Walla County financial and electoral system and how it serves its citizens during the upcoming term?

Financial: The upcoming financial software upgrade is not just for the Auditor’s Office: it’s countywide. It allows us to address several issues, including, 1) countywide standardization of payment options (including debit/credit cards) thereby reducing cost through volume pricing. 2) Payroll frequency. This is an issue I’ve heard from many county employees - being paid once a month is tough. While there is a draw capability, it has repeatedly been listed as a job satisfaction issue.

A frequent problem with new systems is that users want to change them to work just like the system they’ve replaced instead of using the system to improve. I have deep experience in system selection and the reengineering of processes to allow us to thoroughly make use of new system features.

Electoral: Systems cover more than just technology. They cover long term plans: a roadmap, so-to-speak, covering goals, resources, and key performance indicators and measurements.

My electoral roadmap includes 1) Bilingual voter outreach, registration, and ballots. 2) An improved website with increased accessibility. 3) Meeting deadlines. 4) Training and certification of staff. 5) A means for timely public input. 6) Collaboration throughout the state with my peers.

What makes you the better candidate for this position?

I offer new perspectives, proven leadership and relevant experience. I’m not running out the clock or content with the “status quo.” I’m not invested in, “This is how we’ve always done it.” I ask questions, I listen, learn and adapt.

I’ve been a small business owner. I understand how long lines and problematic customer service can impact the bottom line. I’ve fixed problems like the ones I’ve personally experienced while doing business with the Auditor’s Office.

I’ve built teams, managed back office operations, budgets, customer service and help desks, and internal and external audits. I’ve been responsible for the selection and installation of new systems and protocols. I’ve written and implemented policy and procedures, documented and improved workflow, read and interpreted regulation.

Our community is growing and changing. For the third consecutive year our valley has been named America’s Best Wine Region. We deserve a visionary county Auditor’s Office that doesn’t just focus on getting the job done from day to day, but one that will provide the level of service our citizens and businesses need to grow and thrive. As we upgrade and professionalize operations we will create a culture of excellence of which our valley’s forefathers would be proud.

If elected, what would be your top immediate priority?

Conversations I’ve had across the county, from Prescott to Burbank, have led me to recognize that improving the customer experience is my immediate priority.

What does that involve?

1) Improving work culture and addressing employee turnover

2) Mentoring others in the skillsets needed to promote innovation and increased public confidence

3) Reviewing existing system(s) and evaluating underutilized features to improve workflow

4) Analyzing customer trends and creating peak time staffing plans

5) Considering a lobby computer (with limited domain access) and assisting those that could do business online but don’t have computer or online access

6) Evaluating express lines for less complex transactions

7) Establishing focus groups to promote public input and create a listening culture

8) Considering a citizen’s advisory group to assist with the electoral roadmap

9) Being present and accessible with an open-door policy

Putting taxpayers and their families first is crucial, and the ability to listen, understand needs, and manage the impact of change is a skill I have learned - and practiced - throughout my career. I am committed to putting my experience, my knowledge, and my independence to work for Walla Walla: I ask for your vote, and the opportunity to serve you.

Hector writes stories about local sports, helps produce the daily section and updates the web site. A lifelong sports nut having grown up in Maryland, he joined the U-B with more than 15 years experience in journalism.

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