Michael Howard (D) – Summit County Auditor
Michael Howard (Democrat)
Summit County Auditor
Question 1: What are your qualifications to run for county auditor and why do you want to serve?
I hold a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Westminster College of Salt Lake City with a math minor. I also hold an Executive MBA from Brigham Young University in Provo. My work experience is varied and encompasses both large and small companies. I was a Systems Analyst assigned to the Benefits division of American Stores Company, a Fortune 50 company. We actively accounted for $2.5 billion in assets and employed the necessary controls, processes and systems to efficiently do so.
I currently own and operate a small IT consulting firm providing systems analysis, process review, and project implementation to companies in the Summit and Salt Lake County areas. I have maintained these business relationships for many years and my clients trust that I have their best interests at heart. I have served as a Trustee for a 401(k) plan, as a board member and executive committee member for various local non-profits (Summit Land Conservancy and Friends of Animals). I currently serve as Chair of the Administrative Control Board for the Park City Fire District.
I feel my education and varied work expertise qualifies me to be county auditor.
Question 2: Are there any things you want to change about the way the auditor’s office is run?
Blake Frazier has done a good job of running the auditor’s office for a number of years. My goal as auditor would be to build upon his foundation and employ new technologies where there is a logical fit.
In my current capacity as an IT Consultant, I see new ways of accomplishing business goals almost daily. My clients rely on me to look at their processes and recommend new, better and cost-effective solutions to enhance and/or better them. I will bring this same critical eye to the auditor’s office and actively look for ways to increase efficiency, lower costs, and provide even better service to the County Council and citizens of Summit County.
Question 3: Does the county have adequate reserve funds to weather another recession?
I believe the county has enough reserve funds to weather another recession of shorter duration when one occurs. A portion of our reserve fund was tapped when valuations decreased and building slowed in Summit County several years ago. Now that the economic indicators look positive for Summit County, it would be appropriate and prudent to place more funds in our reserves while maintaining essential service levels for the citizenry of Summit County.
As auditor, I will continually look for ways to keep costs in check so as to further enhance our reserves.
Question 4: Is the current budget process efficient and are there ways to make it more so? Can you recommend any cost-saving measures?
While serving as the interim county treasurer, I actively participated in the budgeting process. Each department head (both elected and unelected) submits their desired budget to the Auditor’s Office every year. The auditor’s office compiles these individual budgets into a master budget along with showing the anticipated revenues for the coming year. The members of the budget committee then review this budget. Department heads are then invited and a thorough vetting occurs where cuts and additions are made. The process involves many steps but in my opinion, it invites "buy-in" from all affected parties.
With regards to cost-saving measures, I think it would be premature for me to recommend some now until I have had a chance to participate in the process and query the department heads regarding their needs. During that process I will indeed recommend cost-saving measures.
Question 5: Are you satisfied with the county’s current council/manager form of government, why or why not and what would make it better?
I am satisfied with the current council/manager form of government. I admit that at first I was skeptical, but now having seen it work, up-close and personal, I am supportive of the change. Our County Council members each have their lives to live and trying to actively manage a county of our size and revenue base could be and would be an overwhelming task in my opinion.
Our current County Manager had brought varied and valued expertise while he has served here and he will be missed. Of course as with any new endeavors and/or changes, there will be tweaking and minor changes needed. We have a venue in which to voice our desire for change in the County Council. It is through this "safety valve" that we as residents have a say in the affairs of the executive branch.
Question 6: Please differentiate your platform from your opponent’s.
I pledge to the residents of Summit County that I will be a cautious steward over their tax dollars and to get the most leverage from them. I will look for ways to employ new technological resources to enhance efficiencies, streamline costs and remove redundancies where possible. I will work with the county departments and special service districts to ensure that costs are controlled, needed resources can be supplied and proper financial controls are in place.
During my tenure as interim county treasurer, I formed relationships with many of the current department heads and officials. Prior to the budget process, I strove to understand their departments and what services they perform. I asked them what were their needs and wants in their respective budgets. Our conversations resulted in understanding and compromising which led to changes thus keeping costs in line.
I will do the same while serving as the county auditor. I will re-establish those relationships and work towards efficient government, controlling costs and enhancing controls on the financial resources of this county. I ask for your support on November 4th!
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