Hoelscher confident in transition despite slow start
Mark Hoelscher last served Wayne County as auditor five decades ago.
While the auditor’s core role — tracking the county’s finances and paying its bills — remains the same, computerization has changed how the work happens. Hoelscher, who has discussed his inexperience with computers, and his chief deputy Elaine Rihm, who has no auditor’s office experience, have much to learn.
Hoelscher, 75, who beat current auditor Kimberly Walton during the Republican primary then ran unopposed in the general election, took his oath of office Dec. 21 from Judge April Drake during a Circuit Court ceremony for newly elected and reelected county and township officials. He then swore in Rihm.
After the ceremony, Hoelscher said they had no preparation at that point. He said he has not been permitted in the auditor’s office.
“It’s a problem, and the current auditor created the problem,” Hoelscher said. “We just don’t have the opportunity to get in there and do what we need to.”
After her final Wayne County Council meeting Dec. 21, Walton said, “He was allowed in the office as long as he wasn’t going to cause any disturbances. He asked if I would train him for six months, and I said no.”
Walton elaborated that she told Hoelscher how he ran the office would be a personal choice, and any other information about the office and how it functions is available from the Indiana State Board of Accounts and the Department of Local Government Finance.
Hoelscher did meet with staff members at an appropriate time, Walton said. The auditor’s office has five full-time and one part-time staff members in addition to the auditor and chief deputy auditor.
“My goal is just to make a smooth transition,” Rihm said. “We’re here to serve the public.”
Added Hoelscher: “We know who we’re here to serve. The staff they have there now is competent and very good with what they do. She and I can add to that.”
Hoelscher said he and Rihm have attended vendor meetings in Indianapolis and are calling various county tax agencies, such as school systems, to establish relationships.
In addition to being auditor, Hoelscher was business manager for Northeastern Wayne schools and ran a business. Rihm of Greens Fork has business experience and worked with the Richmond Police Department.
The auditor works closely with the county council, attending council meetings and compiling the agenda for those meetings. They work together establishing a budget, then the auditor monitors the appropriations and spending approved by council and pays the bills.
According to council member Gary Saunders, the auditor is “very, very important” to the council. Saunders has been through multiple auditor transitions during his council service.
“It’s not really difficult as long as they provide the information we need,” he said. “It’s critically important they do that. It takes a little time for the auditor to get up to speed, but it’s laid out pretty clear what they have to do. The transitions usually are pretty good.”
If any problems do pop up, Saunders said council and the auditor collaborate to solve them.
“We work together to get through them,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
Hoelscher said his office will be transparent to taxpayers and helpful to the tax agencies it serves, doing some things differently.
“We’re going to give it some time, get in there and review everything, then if there are changes needed, we’ll make them,” he said.
However differently the auditor’s office functions from his previous service, Hoelscher said he, Rihm and the staff will meet the challenge.
“Money hasn’t changed color,” Hoelscher said.