Not busy enough raising three children, attending law school and running a growing business, Susan’s first foray into local politics came in 1998. Unhappy with some of the things going on in St. Joseph, Susan decided to do something about it and run for the city council. With a large grass roots campaign strategy that included Susan participating in a chili cook-off and playing on a team in the local dart league, she was elected to a city wide, at-large seat on the city council.
By now you recognize that Susan is not afraid to work and if she sees a problem that needs fixing, she dives in. In 2000, after the death of the Buchanan County Auditor, Susan became aware that the county was still operating their accounting by hand without the aid of computers. Susan decided that professionalism was sorely needed and so she ran for and was elected Buchanan County Auditor for the two years remaining of the four year term. Susan still had two years remaining on her city council term and continued to serve concurrently with her post as auditor. In 2002, she was re-elected Buchanan County Auditor.
Susan’s first duty as County Auditor was to hand sign all of the payroll checks. It was clear there was work to be done. Susan’s accomplishments with Buchanan County included modernizing the systems that consisted of hand written checks and old fashioned ledger books. She moved quickly to streamline the offices of the county, investing in badly needed infrastructure that would save tax payers money for many years to come and make county records more secure and accessible.
After six years as County Auditor, learning the ropes and recognizing how essential it was to keep government running honestly and efficiently, Susan decided to run for Missouri State Auditor.
Campaigning on the strength of her achievements as Buchanan County Auditor and a small business owner, Susan emphasized her experience as both a Certified Public Accountant and an attorney – something no previous Missouri State Auditor had been. She won her election and was sworn in as Missouri’s 35th State Auditor in January 2007.
Susan used her background as a business owner to identify overlap, streamline procedures and standardize reporting. With these significant changes to the State Auditor’s Office she increased efficiency and saved tax dollars. She also oversaw the implementation of an instantaneous electronic alert system that allowed Missouri citizens to be notified when new audit reports are issued.
Audits and Investigative Reports
Her tenure as State Auditor was one of the most productive Missouri has ever seen. Susan conducted audits that yielded a positive impact for Missouri taxpayers and citizens. The audit of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) uncovered blatant waste and abuse, including severance packages to former executives that total almost $2.3 million.
Susan’s audit of the Riverview Gardens School District identified fraud on the part of the superintendent, who was subsequently convicted of his crimes. A citizens’ petition prompted an audit of the City of Springfield and City Utilities of Springfield. By the end of the following year, a majority of the audit recommendations for Springfield had been implemented.
Susan alerted the public, general assembly and executive branch of the pending insolvency of the Second Injury Fund. She urged legislators to make the Second Injury Fund a top priority because of the benefits it provides to injured workers and veterans. Unfortunately, to date no action has been taken, but Susan’s warnings about the fund have proven accurate and this is an ongoing concern.
Susan tackled issues relating to public education, child safety and protection of our most vulnerable citizens. Her audits of student immunization compliance, day care and senior center licensing, and the Safe Schools Initiative have resulted in legislative proposals to solve the inadequacies she uncovered. Susan brought national attention to Missouri when she released her audit that exposed gross negligence in the hiring of school bus drivers who failed criminal background checks .
After leaving the office of Missouri State Auditor, Susan became the Chair of the Missouri State Democratic Party in 2011. Just like the politicians the party supports, chairs come and go with elections. Her objective was to implement a professional, independent structure to the organization that would free it from control of any one candidate.
And while helping Democrats across the state get elected to office was a job she loved, Susan soon recognized that the best way for her to help the people of Missouri is from a statewide elected office with the power to finish some of the work she started as State Auditor. So in November of 2011 Susan stepped down from Chair of the Missouri Democratic Party and announced her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.