The title is a mouthful: auditor-controller treasurer-tax collector. The job is chief financial officer for Sonoma County, with responsibilities ranging from budget and program oversight to borrowing money and managing investments of public funds.
It may come as a surprise that this is an elected position — not because of the duties, which are substantial, but because it hasn't been contested since 1994, when auditor-controller and treasurer-tax collector were separate offices.
This year, voters have a choice between two candidates with professional credentials and political experience: David E. Sundstrom and Gary Wysocky.
The primary differences between them involve experience and style.
Sundstrom was appointed Sonoma County auditor-controller treasurer-tax collector by the Board of Supervisors in 2011, succeeding Rod Dole, who quit five months into his sixth term. Sundstrom has 30 years' experience as a government auditor, including three terms as the elected auditor-controller in Orange County, and he serves on the national board that sets accounting standards for public agencies.
Wysocky is a Santa Rosa city councilman and a certified public accountant, specializing in forensic accounting. He can't match Sundstrom's resum? but his work ethic and grasp of city finances are impressive, and he has a watchdog mentality about the public's money. Wysocky asks tough questions, and he doesn't settle for incomplete or misleading answers.
But in many ways, Wysocky's forceful style seems a mismatch with the office he's seeking.
The auditor keeps the county's books, collects and apportions property taxes, supervises bond sales and manages a pooled money investment fund used by cities and school districts as well as the county. He also financial advice for the supervisors, the pension fund and other agencies.
Since taking office, Sundstrom drafted a first-ever debt policy for the county and established an internal audit committee to review the performance of county programs. He's installing a new computer system, due this year, that will increase public access to county financial data. Sundstrom also is working to arrange independent audits without added expense for the county's special districts, removing a potential conflict of interest for his office.
Sundstrom's record reflects caution and prudence, underscored by his opposition to pension-obligation bonds, a gamble endorsed by Dole, his predecessor in the Sonoma County office.
Finally, he brings crisis experience shared by few of his peers. Sundstrom was hired as Orange County's director of internal audits as the county was emerging from bankruptcy in 1996. He helped establish financial controls for California's third largest county and, two years later, he was elected auditor-controller. He won re-election three times before resigning to take the job in Sonoma County, where years before he earned a degree at Sonoma State University.
Sundstrom says "this is not an empty suit's job." He's right, and he has demonstrated his qualifications during his three years on the job. For auditor-controller treasurer-tax collector, The Press Democrat recommends David E. Sundstrom.