Barnes County Auditor Ed McGough is resigning from his elected position after more than a quarter century, citing health problems as his reason for leaving.
"This job actually takes - to really do a good job - 50 hours a week and I can't get 40 in," McGough said. "When I did the elections is when it really hit me. I got sick because I was doing too much in too many hours and was too stressed."
McGough was honored by the Barnes County Commission for his times served as Auditor on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at a commission meeting. That meeting also marked the first time in about nine months that he sat at the auditor's desk in the Commission Chambers. He had missed most of 2011 due to ongoing illnesses, and said since coming back, he doesn't feel like his old self anymore.
Aug. 8 will be McGough's official last day, but he will still be a familiar face in the Barnes County Courthouse for a short while after he retires, saying he will still have loose ends to tie up and he especially wants to help train the new auditor.
"The Auditor's Office is the hub of the county wheel, because everything they do in the other offices eventually that information comes through here, so you're dealing with all the departments. You're helping them get their budgets together and fashion it so the commissioners can understand it and it provides them with the opportunity to make good decisions," McGough said.
The Auditor said he's seen a lot of changes in the operations and the operators of county government since he was voted into office in 1986. McGough said he was asked to run by people who were concerned about the previous auditor's health and how it was affecting her ability to do the job.
"She'd come in weekends and nights and do what she can, didn't have the health I guess. Then she died 28 days before the election. That was the joke back then, that I ran against a dead lady, but I've been voted in every years since then so I feel like I've done a good job," he said.
McGough said working with people has always been his greatest joy of the job, and over the years has been thankful to work with the majority of city, county and township officials.
"A lot of people come into these boards like county commissioners, city commissioners, and they've got agendas. They think when they get in there, they're going to change those things, and when they get in there they find out that there's a whole big picture they didn't really understand. I've went through a lot of commissioners here in 26 years, and I've enjoyed most of them."
Witnessing the digital revolution first hand, McGough said the introduction of computers opened up a new world in government operations. Before computers took off in their more modern forms, the auditor recalled the nightmares of budgeting by hand and sleeping in the courthouse to keep up with work during tax season. Despite fears at the time, the computers never caused a county employee to lose their job and only made information more accurate and easy to present to commissioners. Computer-assisted budgeting was also responsible for putting extra funds into the county coffers.
"We had quite a few bucks back then, but money's getting tighter every year. Federal programs have cut back, state programs have cut back... With money tight right now the commissioners get nervous because they don't want to raise taxes but they've got to look at the big picture and make sure they've got enough money for the cost of doing government," said McGough.
The County Commission and the States Attorney's office will discuss how to fill the vacant auditor's seat at Tuesday's commission meeting. Auditor is an elected position and an appointed person would hold that seat until the 2014 election.
"Hopefully they're going to get someone with a lot of experience with the basics of accounting, and bookkeeping, human relations – psychiatry sometimes – they're all good assets and I wanted to let the commission to have that opportunity instead of waiting for an election, get somebody in here that I can help right now," McGough said.
County Commissioner Cindy Schwehr, who's worked with McGough since she was elected to the commission in 2000, said the auditor had sent out an email announcing his resignation and wanted everyone to understand why he was leaving and how much he's appreciated the public's support.
"He's kind of emotional about it. Family is important to him and I told him life is too short to work until you drop... If he could stay home and get healthy – but he's not sleeping at night and the pressure of being County Auditor is just too much."
In closing, McGough said he's loved the job he's held for 26 years.
"I'm going to miss it all, but I will be reading the minutes. I just want to thank everybody. Especially when I was sick, the support I received was just unbelivable. You don't realize how important you are to people until you do get sick like that. People are there for you, and they helped me fight it."