by Joyce DeVore

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March 10, 2011
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Introducing the Alpine County auditor

Michele McLelland became Alpine County Auditor eight weeks ago. Today she said, "My husband Buck and I wouldn't want to live and work and raise our girls anywhere else. We love it here."

I asked her to explain in simple terms what she does as county auditor.

"An auditor makes sure that taxpayer funds are spent according to county policies and state or federal laws or account standards. We keep track of the cash coming into the county," she said.

"As grant reimbursements, revenue from other government agencies, property taxes, business license fees, court fines, and other revenues come into the county, we account for them and distribute the monies appropriate to the budget. We then write the checks to pay the county's bills and payroll. The auditor's office is also responsible to compile the budget that is approved by the Board of Supervisors and prepare financial statements that are audited by a Certified Public Accountant."

The "we" she refers to is the Assistant Auditor, Nani Ellis, and Financial Officer Sara Center.

Ellis has been working in the auditor's office for 16 years, and McLelland warmly said, "Nani is the best."

Center recently moved to Gardnerville from Susanville, where she worked in the Lassen County Auditor's Office.

McLelland appreciates the experience both Ellis and Center bring to the office.  

"We don't have the volume that other counties have since Alpine is tiny population-wise, but we only have a few people to do all the jobs," acknowledged McLelland. 

"We are responsible for a multitude of reports," she said.

The state controller and an outside auditor require frequent statements and reports from the county office. Each report has specific forms and deadlines.

"Thank goodness for the help of former auditor, Randi Makely. She spent a couple of months helping me before she left and I would have been lost without her. Makely left her calendars, spreadsheets with notes and they have been very helpful," McLelland added.

McLelland has been familiarizing herself with volumes of material from the Government Auditors Standards Board.

A brand new volume containing some 700 pages was sitting on her desktop.

"I had a basic government accounting class at the University of Nevada, but the standards change so I have to keep reading."

Risk management is occupying a good deal of McLelland's time, since she had little background in that department.

She explained that risk management means "getting county insurance, working with our claims adjuster if claims are filed against the county, and ensuring that our employees and visitors on county property are safe."

McLelland has already attended a few conferences on Risk Management for Auditors and will attend another one this month.

I asked what her focus is for the moment and she answered thoughtfully, "Our big focus in the county is to gain consistency in financial transactions. We want everyone doing things according to policy, which means everyone in every department follows the same policy. We are getting ready for the next fiscal year budget and for the changes that occur mid-year in the current budget."

The biggest surprise for McLelland was, "going from being a staff member at the Sheriff's Department where I worked for four years to having staff. Before I was able to ask questions of my supervisors about how things should be done. Now I am the one who has to find the answers."

She refers to her life at home as "crazy busy."

Her husband Buck is studying to be a financial advisor and together they are raising two beautiful daughters, Camryn, 4, and Marissa, 2.

"Thank goodness we have my parents and Buck's mother who all live at Lake Tahoe to help us out," she said with a smile.  "Tonight is dance lessons and Buck is taking the girls so I don't have to rush."

Thank you to the Auditor's Office for taking a few minutes for an interesting interview.

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The Record Courier Updated Mar 10, 2011 09:40PM Published Mar 10, 2011 09:39PM Copyright 2011 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.