For the first time in 28 years, Stanislaus County voters will have a choice for auditor-controller.
Two candidates will be on the June 8 ballot: Assistant Auditor-Controller Lauren Parrill Klein and Community Hospice Chief Financial Officer Rick Dahlseid.
Auditor-Controller Larry Haugh is retiring. Typically, the race has not drawn challengers, with auditor-controllers running unopposed and their assistants running unopposed when the auditor-controller retired.
Dahlseid, 50, has been Community Hospice's chief financial officer for 5½ years, overseeing the financial operations of a nonprofit with a $20 million budget and 200 employees.
Parrill Klein, 54, has worked for the auditor-controller's office for more than four years and recently was promoted to the No. 2 position there. She complements her county experience with 10 years at Bay Area CPA firms.
In the current budget year, which ends June 30, the auditor-controller runs a department with a $4.3 million budget and is authorized 46 employees. The salary is $149,573 but will drop by 5 percent in the next budget year, as part of cost-savings measures approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
The department's duties include disbursing payments, auditing county operations and providing financial information to the county's 27 departments.
Dahlseid and Parrill Klein are certified public accountants -- one of the requirements to run for the nonpartisan office -- and Modesto residents. The two recently shared why they are qualified to be auditor-controller:
On his campaign Web site, Dahlseid lists several dozen endorsements, including Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour and Sheriff Adam Christianson and one name that may not be familiar to most voters: Stephen F. Smith.
As assistant auditor-controller for eight years, Smith was the No. 2 person in the department and considered running for auditor-controller until he retired in March.
"He has years and years of experience," Smith said about Dahlseid. "He's a CPA, has a master's degree in taxation, he's CFO of Hospice and his personality is right for the office."
Dahlseid said that because the auditor-controller's office houses the majority of the county's financial brainpower, he'd look at having the office offer financial services to the county's cities.
He said the cities would benefit and it would bring in money to the county.
Dahlseid said he wants to focus on technology — such as paperless automation — and improving operations to save money. And he wants to offer his department's expertise to other county departments.
For instance, he said, the Sheriff's Department still uses manual timecards. That's an opportunity for the auditor-controller's office to help the Sheriff's Department in its shift to electronic timecards, he said.
"I believe I'm the candidate with the financial leadership and innovative ideas to be the auditor-controller," he said."
But Dahlseid has stumbled. He first told The Bee the auditor-controller's office was responsible for the revenue projections in the county's midyear budget report, and those projections were too optimistic.
He later said he was mistaken about the source of the projections; they, along with the budget report, are prepared by the county's chief executive office.
Dahlseid and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 1999 after dissolving his CPA practice with his partner. The bankruptcy was discharged the same year.
"It was a very challenging time, but I feel it has made me a better business person," he said. " ... My track record since then, with increasing positions of leadership, shows I have come away from this as a better person."
Parrill Klein may be a familiar name to some. Her father, Carl Parrill, was varsity basketball coach at Grace Davis High School from the early 1960s to mid-1970s.
She said her four-plus years with the auditor-controller's office and her private sector experience make her a strong candidate, especially with the county's budget stretched thin by the economic downturn.
"I'm in the ideal position," she said. "I still have a fresh perspective and ideas, but I have the experience. ... My opponent does not have any government experience. That's a big concern to me and for the county, as well. You can't just walk into the office and run it."
Parrill Klein said Stanislaus County, with a $1 billion budget and more than two dozen departments, is a complex financial entity because it offers different services that require an experienced hand.
She said she's not afraid to make tough decisions. She was the county's internal audit manager for four years, she said, and sometimes that meant delivering bad news. "I've had department heads and high-level people upset with me," she said.
She also has the endorsement of her boss.
"I've worked closely with her," Haugh said. "I know her abilities and skills. Certainly, her opponent is qualified, but I think Lauren is more qualified to carry out the duties and responsibilities of this office."
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.