State Auditor-elect Josh Gallion says he plans to use audits to find savings for the cash-strapped state government.
“These audits are a resource, a tool,” he said.
Gallion said taking office during a time of tight budgets will provide an opportunity to review operations and ensure best practices as well as generating new ideas to better provide services.
He’s expressed interest in beefing up the agency’s performance audit division staff in order to increase the frequency. Gallion said he knows it’s an uphill battle with a tight budget situation this session.
“It’s something that I’ll want to put on the table,” Gallion said.
He said one concern he has is the reduction of the auditor’s office staff by six positions in former Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s 2017-19 budget proposal.
Gallion said he’ll want to talk to Gov. Doug Burgum about it, adding that he agrees with the new governor’s vision on finding new and better ways to provide services. He said the auditor’s office is a key place in helping find those efficiencies, a case he’ll need to make to the governor and Legislature.
“I just question why would you cut so many people from an agency,” Gallion said of the budget proposal.
Gallion is transitioning away from his position at the North Dakota Public Service Commission to take office in his first elected post. He’s been serving as the PSC’s accounting manager as well as the program director for the agency’s weights and measures program.
He said he’s spent his time during the transition getting up to speed on office procedures, reading recent audits and meeting with outgoing State Auditor Robert R. Peterson, a fellow Republican.
“You always want to make sure you take care of first things first,” Gallion said.
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Gallion received 76.6 percent of the vote in November.
During his term in office, Gallion said one area he’ll push is being visible personally during the audit process when possible. He wants to change the mindset of state agencies from fear or anxiety over audits to being more accepting of them as an important tool in improving operations.
Peterson said the transition has gone well and Gallion’s professional and educational background lends itself well to being successful in the role.
“He’s been involved in state government for some time now, so he understands state government, so that helps,” Peterson said.
He said the tight budget will be the immediate issue to contend with.
“It’s a more difficult challenge,” Peterson said. “He’ll do a good job.”
Gallion is a Spokane, Wash., native. He came to North Dakota as a member of the United States Air Force and was stationed at Minot Air Force Base. There, he met his wife, Becky. They have two children.
Prior to joining the PSC, Gallion spent nearly three years at the Driver’s License Division of the North Dakota Department of Transportation. There, he worked as a program manager and financial officer.
Gallion earned his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson State University and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Dakota.
Once he takes office Gallion will be the first state auditor without the surname Peterson in decades. Peterson was first elected to the office in 1996; his father Robert W. Peterson held the office for 24 years prior.
Gallion said when he was first considering launching his campaign he joked with his wife about changing his last name.
“My wife axed that idea,” Gallion said with a laugh.
(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at email@example.com.)