For more than a decade, the Madera County Auditor-Controller's office was plagued by chaos as its elected position rotated through numerous resignations, it lacked staff to perform internal audits of many government agencies, and for more than 15 years, delays to one of its key projects held up millions of dollars in grant applications.
With Oakhurst’s Todd Miller, all that has changed, and his first year of leadership has helped bring in more than $2 million. Along with that and streamlined auditing processes, Miller said as the county’s “financial watchdog,” he’s far from finished.
“The people hired me,” Miller said. “I work for them. I don’t work for (county) supervisors, I don’t work for county administration. I was employed by, and hired by the people. I answer to them, and I will always do what is right by the people.”
Miller took formal office in January though his predecessor Marcia Hall, who he defeated in the June primary, immediately resigned election night and left a hole in the department which Miller accepted as acting auditor-controller.
He said as soon as he walked through the door, his primary goal was to complete the countys annual audit, which had been delayed by its March 31 deadline for at least 16 years.
“I told my team to get the financial statements done,” Miller said. “I told them this is your job, this is your goal, and I will get you anything you need to get there.”
Everyone, even in his own department, was skeptical, Miller said, but on March 27 this year, four days before another delayed audit, the task was done.
An A+ credit rating from Standard & Poors in July, for the first time in Madera County in nearly 30 years. That meant an estimated $500,000 in savings, along with more saved dollars through refinanced interest payments on the county’s government center, which used to cost $1.7 million a year.
A successful application for $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, to free up financial assistance for lower-income homeowners.
And, Miller said, an excellent staff with improved morale, meaning better auditing practices and the possibility for even more savings in the future.
“I’ve been told the stress level, the tension of the office is nothing like it used to be,” Miller said. “There’s always some (stress) because we're always under deadlines, but there’s no personal tension there. I have confidence in my staff ... I do not micromanage them. I trust them, and if they have a failure, we train up the failure. We don’t chastise them, and we don’t demean them. All the employees are very hardworking and they care about the job they do while they strive to give their best. It’s very impressive.”
Other improvements Miller has implemented, or plans to add, include an internal audit staff to ensure proper accounting practices across county departments, improved worker training programs, and new positions or more hours after layoffs in previous years due to a nationwide fiscal crisis.
The main goal, Miller said, is to remain the people’s watchdog, unafraid to tackle any financial issue.
“If I think there’s an issue, I will always err on the side of the people,” Miller said. “I'm supposed to protect their tax dollars. They’re giving their money to support county government, and it’s my job specifically to make sure that’s what is occurring. That’s why I’m elected, not appointed.”
Miller, a resident of Oakhurst for 23 years, grew up in the San Fernando Valley and has a wife of 39 years, along with three children and two grandchildren.