By Darby Patterson and Cathlea Robinett
Forget any stereotypes you might have about an auditor.
Ralph Campbell, Jr., state auditor of North Carolina, just doesnt fit the image. A dynamic, outgoing 54-year-old, Campbell attacks his job with a creativity seldom found in his profession. He has been a highly visible and successful constitutional officer, moving the state to a leadership position in fiscal management through the use of information technology. And hes not shy about his accomplishments.
"Im just good!" he joked, adding that his position as an elected official allows him the freedom to inspire change. "You end up being the one to conduct the affairs of your department based on the desire of citizens as opposed to the direction of the legislature. It has a great deal of independence. On the other hand, you have to run for re-election."
"As chairman of the states Information Resource Management Commission (IRMC), Campbell is also in a powerful position to guide internal and external development of online systems that benefit the public and make government more efficient.
Campbells experience in politics began when his father served as president of the NAACP in Raleigh during the height of the civil rights movement. From 1958 to 1969, his family welcomed leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., to the oval table with white iron legs where courageous men and women gathered to develop strategy in the struggle for equality.
"Aside from pushing for change, you had to be involved in the social process," remembered Campbell. "The people who changed the laws were those who got elected to office."
He suspects this is what drove him and his younger brother Bill, now mayor of Atlanta, to run for public office. After campaigning for Bill, Campbell was inspired. He returned to Raleigh and won a seat on the City Council in 1985. His commitment to a life of public service was born in this local office, but it didnt stop there. In 1993, he became the first African-American in the states history to be elected to a statewide, constitutional office.
Getting to Work
Campbell wasted no time in automating the auditors office to better serve North Carolinas state agencies and the public. Every year, there are more than 300 audits conducted by Campbells office, including 45 departments, colleges and universities. Today, every auditor has a laptop with audit programs and forms online. Not only did technology make the auditors job faster, it provided a training mechanism for new employees in the department. To the dismay of some public employees, Campbells auditors became increasingly efficient and effective.
"Through our hotline, our auditors were notified of purchasing irregularities in the Department of Corrections," said Campbell. "Officials had bought a 115-year supply of little shirts and very large shoes for $7.5 million."
An audit of the departments books quickly revealed kickbacks from vendors for corrections officials. "Now we have some help for our legislators in developing a profile of criminals," joked Campbell: "Little bitty shoulders and great big feet!"
Most audits bring less attention, and Campbell likes it that way. "We have built a strong foundation of accountability, reliability and integrity," he said. "We have taken the Office of the State Auditor into the Information Age and now, as IRMC chair, I want to take state government along."
A Natural Visionary
Campbell wants to see an expansion of portal development throughout the state under an enterprise-wide plan that links state and local government to businesses and citizens. Since September, citizens in North Carolina have been able to obtain motor vehicle tags and purchase tickets to the perennially popular state fair online. Campbell looks forward to online acceptance of income tax payments and professional licensing