Michelle May was recently appointed as Chippewa County Auditor/Treasurer. She spoke with the Advocate Tribune about how her first few weeks in office have gone.
Advocate Tribune: For those in the community who maybe don't know you, briefly describe where you're originally from, where you went to school, and where you currently reside.
Michelle May: I am originally from Ankeny, Iowa where I graduated from high school in 2003. I attended the University of Minnesota where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance. I graduated in 2007. I have a Master’s in Business Administra-tion from Southwest Minnesota State University and am a licensed CPA. I currently reside in Granite Falls township in Chippewa County with my husband, Scott Jacobson, and my son. My husband is originally from Chippewa County.
AT: Prior to becoming Auditor/Treasurer for Chippewa County, you worked for Yellow Medicine County as the Finance Director. What prompted you to make this transition? How did your previous job prepare you for your current position?
MM: When I learned of Jon’s retirement, I considered the Auditor/Treasurer position as an expansion of the skills and knowledge I gained as the Finance Director for Yellow Medicine. I think the Auditor/Treasurer builds on my previous experiences and it offers some additional learning opportunities in the area of elections and taxation. I really enjoy the financial aspects of my job, so I saw this role as an opportunity to continue what I was doing with some added responsibilities and personal and professional growth opportunities.
Working in County government is kind of unique compared to other private businesses. Having experience working at Yellow Medicine County really made the transition easier because the two counties utilize the same technology, follow the same statutes and policies, and have similar priorities in the communities.
AT: Describe your duties as Auditor/Treasurer. What do you do? Who do you work with? What is your larger role in the county?
MM: As the Auditor/Treasurer, I am the clerk to the Board of Commissioners. I am responsible for calculating, collecting, and distributing property taxes, election administration, and various accounting functions such as payroll, accounts payable and receivables, budgeting, and preparing financial statements. I am also responsible for managing County investments. We are also responsible for various tasks related to the administration of County ditches. There are also a variety of other county-wide projects I may get involved in, for example, broadband initiatives.
One of the benefits of this position is the variety of people I work with. We work directly with County residents through the tax, election and ditch processes. I get to work with all of the other County staff when we prepare budgets, pay bills, and handle payroll. I also work directly with County Commissioners and my other County counterparts in various joint ventures or collaborations.
The Auditor/Treasurer wears many hats and I think my larger role is to help facilitate and support the operations of the County while ensuring and monitoring its financial stability.
AT: How have the first several weeks gone since taking over from Jon? Was there anything exciting or unexpected?
MM: I think the first few weeks have gone well. It has been very busy getting adjusted to the day-to-day processes while trying to research and understand some of the larger issues impacting Chippewa County. Chippewa County has more relationships with the City than compared to Yellow Medicine County. For instance, Chippewa County has a financial and oversight role with the Chippewa County Montevideo Hospital and the Airport. These activities are new to me because Yellow Medicine did not have these relationships.
It’s been fun to get to know the other County staff and Commissioners. We have several drainage activities going on which has kept things interesting. I worked closely with the Drainage Inspector on County drainage projects in Yellow Medicine so this area is not new to me, but I enjoy the challenge this area provides. Not unexpected, but something new, is the Election Equipment Grant we recently received from the State of Minnesota. We will be using the grant to replace old equipment and purchase new electronic roster pollbooks.
AT: Do you have any policy priorities for the upcoming year? What about new financial goals for the County?
MM: Purchasing and implementing the new election equipment is one of my goals for this year. We will be working with the area election judges to train everyone. I think in the long run I look forward to identifying whether there are any process improvements we can implement throughout the County which could result in cost savings or enhance our services.
AT: Anything else you'd like to add for the community?
MM: Although the position is no longer elected, I will listen to the concerns or ideas of County residents and taxpayers. Our office will continue to provide great customer service to employees and taxpayers. I’m open to new ideas for improvements and will continue to work towards enhancing the services of Chippewa County. I will perform my duties to the best of my abilities and look forward to serving the County for many years.