Nevertheless, López has plowed ahead, making plans, hiring key staff members and focusing on the issues she raised during her campaign, such as the inequities of the home valuation process.
“My number one qualification is that I am committed to serving everyone fairly,” she says of her aspirations for the new position. “Everyone is someone.”
One of the reasons for that commitment admits López, is the fact that she has had some personal history of financial struggles and she has learned lessons from those difficult times that are not easily forgotten or dismissed.
As a college and law student, for example, she had to overcome some hardships in making ends meet and getting through school. Some of those hardships were brought to light during the recent campaign by her opponent as a way to discredit her.
“I was so poor in college that they couldn’t even garnish my wages,” she recalls also noting that her opponent managed to cast the roles of the two candidates as one of “borderline corruption versus struggling girl.”
Ultimately, the voters could relate to her economic struggles, she says, and “people know that I will never forget those struggles in the administration of my office.”
But even before she has had the opportunity to assume her new duties, she has encountered struggles. First, a number of non-supervisory employees decided to join a bargaining unit. Then, as she questioned the fact that the jobs of current Auditor’s family and friends were being protected, communication and cooperation shut down completely.
López attributes part of those difficulties to the fact that Kaczala was anticipating a judicial appointment in the waning days of the Bob Taft administration. Most of his friends and family would have gone with him. When the appointment failed to materialize, his friends and family attempted, in large measure, to lock down their jobs in the Auditor’s Office.
López was particularly incensed when she discovered that managers in the Auditor’s Office were hiring their offspring for intern positions, even for relatively low wages of nine dollars per hour.
“What we have here are two worlds colliding,” she says. “I told them ‘do you know how many people there are who could change their families’ lives with this position?’ I said ‘there’s a student at UT now trying to live on Ramen Noodles every day who would love to have a nine dollar an hour job and whose dad doesn’t make $99,000 per year.’”
That situation has improved recently, says López, as she has clearly stated her intentions not to permit such cronyism to continue and she feels that she is somewhat back on track with her transition plans.
“Citizens are entitled to people who are dedicated and looking out for their well-being,” she says of what she expects in a staff. “Each individual will be held accountable to do their job and do it well – union, non-union, my cabinet. We are going to weed out those who don’t. If there is cleansing to be done, I won’t shy away from it. Everyone will have to prove themselves.”
The early part of the phase includes getting people on staff in key positions – chief accountant, assistant chief accountant and human resources director/general counsel. “I am hiring individuals with extensive experience” she says. One of those will be Jim Gant, a lawyer in the City of Toledo’s Law Department who will be the Auditor’s HR Director/General Counsel.
Gant is African-American, a matter of no small concern to López who notes that among the current cabinet in the Auditor’s Office, there is “no diversity among the decision makers – in the real estate section, yes, but not at the top.”
The Auditor’s Office is a sizeable move up for López with its 150 or so employees (“I literally have not been able to get a straight answer about how many employees are over there”). The Recorder’s Office has 16 employees.
La Prensa asked López why she felt qualified for the job given her lack of accounting background.
“I think I’m qualified, number one, by virtue of the fact of my ability to understand legally how to operate,” she says. “It’s the enforcement of the law that matters and my legal background helps me understand [the issues.] In addition, my years as an administrator have prepared me to understand how to get the job done. My ability to take responsibility and my talent at holding people’s feet to the fire.
“I’m not going to be in the office crunching numbers but I can orchestrate the abilities of others who do that.”
Chief among her tasks will be to focus on the issue of property valuation, a subject she devoted much time during her campaign holding the incumbent’s feet to the fire.
“We have to revamp the system,” she says promising to stay personally involved in such matters. Indeed the board of revisions deadline, she mentions, is on March 31, 2007, and she is already encouraging homeowners who have questions about their properties’ value to contact her office at 419-213-4412 or 419-213-4406. The board of revision’s telephone number is 419-213-4464.
The move to the Auditor’s Office marks the most recent transition for López, who has encountered criticism in recent years due to her failure to finish a term in elective office – even as she continues to win elections. She was elected to the Toledo Board of Education in 2002, ran for and was elected to the Lucas County Recorder’s Office in 2004 and ran, in 2006, for Auditor. What’s the next move, we asked jokingly?
“I promise the public, my husband and my mother that I will finish my four years here,” she responds with a laugh.