FAIRMONT - Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto says her office's mission is transparency and accountability in government, not partisanship.
Otto discussed her job and her effort to retain it on Wednesday in Fairmont, during a campaign swing across southern Minnesota. She is facing a DFL intraparty challenge from former state Rep. Matt Entenza, who has questioned Otto's aggressiveness. The two will square off in the August primary.
Entenza filed his paperwork just 15 minutes prior to the deadline in early June. With the DFL having overwhelmingly endorsed Otto in late May, party chairman Ken Martin has described Entenza's decision as an "insult" to DFLers.
The winner of the DFL primary will move on to face Republican Randy Gilbert, a former Long Lake mayor and an auditor in Minneapolis.
Otto, who has held office for two terms, says her job is not "governor" or "state lawmaker." Those jobs already exist for people who want to shape policy and hand out funding. Her job, she says, is to inform those who make policy and funding decisions, so they have the facts they need.
So, for instance, she wants to gather data on the deferred maintenance of infrastructure that is occurring in cities across the state, so lawmakers know how big the problem is and how they may be able to assist local governments in resolving it.
Also, her office collects and processes data on local governments, so Otto would like to make it more accessible and easier to understand for the public. So that anyone looking up information on their city's revenue, expenditures and debt would be able to quickly compare and contrast this information with other cities.
The state auditor's office oversees the $20 billion spent annually by local governments - counties and first-class cities. In addition to scrutinizing how this money is spent, and how openly, the auditor's office helps communities find better ways to spend money, the candidate says.
She is proud, for instance, of an effort to help local governments reduce energy costs, something that benefits taxpayers. On another front, she says her office has helped the state's 800 police forces adopt best policies and procedures for maintaining the security of evidence rooms, so that criminal cases are not jeopardized.
"People want efficient, effective government," Otto says. "And government that is responsive."
Otto served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 20032005 and previously on the Forest Lake School Board. Before entering politics, she was a science teacher and business owner. She lives on a farm near Marine on St. Croix with her husband, Shawn Lawrence Otto.
This year, she was named one of 15 Most Influential Professionals in Government Auditing by the Institute of Internal Auditors, the international auditing professional organization.