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Howing announces bid for auditor

By Staff | May 6, 2008

Citing her experience in working at various levels of county government as well as her commitment to volunteerism, Michelle Howing has announced her candidacy for Emmet County auditor.

Howing grew up on a farrow-to-finish pork farm in Ida County and is a graduate of Odebolt-Arthur High School. During school she was active in 4-H and FFA as well as community projects.

Her political involvement began at a very tender age. She was a junior delegate for the Democratic party in junior high.

After graduating from Southwest Technical College with a degree in accounting, Howing put her business skills to work and opened The Gift Cottage and Tea Room in Estherville for three years. She then stayed at home to care for her five young children for several years. During that time, she worked for Avera Holy Family Health and Estherville Medical Clinic doing medical records and helping set up the new clinic.

Howing worked at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital then was office manager for Community Health in which she coordinated the state program for childhood insurance for Dickinson County and was secretary for the Dickinson County Board of Health.

Howing was called to public service by Bill Ridout who asked her to come to work for him in the Emmet County attorney’s office.

“I felt the need to come back to Emmet County,” Howing said. She worked half-time for the county attorney’s office and half-time in public practice for Ridout and Bill Sanderson. When Ridout decided not to run for another term, she took a position as office manager for Market Link in Estherville. She later returned to the county attorney’s office as office manager when current County Attorney Doug Hansen was elected.

It was while she was working in the county attorney’s office that Howing wrote a grant for a victim witness coordinator. She worked part-time in that position and part-time as office coordinator for the county attorney’s office. She also assumed the additional duties as Emmet County community services coordinator at no additional pay. “When you work in county government you just have to step up and take over extra duties to stay within budgets,” Howing explained.

Howing resigned as victim/witness coordinator Jan. 1 to campaign for auditor. She said that since the position is paid by a federal grant, she is prohibited from holding a grant-funded position while running for office. She now serves full-time as office manager for the county attorney. While she has mixed feelings about leaving the position of victim witness coordinator that she helped create, Howing said she sees the auditor position as an opportunity to use her talents.

“It is a position I have always been interested in and have watched closely,” Howing said. She said her accounting background could help with the auditor’s position.

Howing said Hansen also encouraged her to run for the position, knowing that she would do well in performing the auditor’s duties. “The rest of my office has been very supportive in my candidacy,” Howing said. She said she also spoke with other employees in the auditor’s office to determine that none of them wanted to run for the position before she decided to run herself.

In envisioning the duties of the auditor, Howing said the position would require someone to serve as commissioner of elections, secretary to the board of supervisors, provide accounting for the county, audit levies, and be the general custodian of all county properties.

“The office is a very, very complex one that will require a significant amount of training that is provided by the state,” Howing said.

Since she has worked for the county for a good number of years, Howing said she knows the functions of the various other offices with which she would work as auditor.

Regarding the press and public, Howing said the taxpayers have a right to know what is going on in county government. She said she has worked well with the press in her current position and will continue to do so.

On a more personal note, Howing and her husband, Brent, have five children: Justin, 18; Drew, 16; and triplets Aaron, Evan, and Janae, 14.

She spends a good deal of time with her children’s 4-H activities and in athletics at Estherville Lincoln Central School.

Howing points to her extensive volunteerism in Emmet County as proof of her commitment to the public.

“I believe that my community service is important,” Howing said. “It shows a dedication to Emmet County. It think it’s important to volunteer and serve your community.”

Howing’s community service includes:

n Wallingford Lutheran Church Sunday school superintendent.

n 4-H leader.

n Avera Holy Family Hospital Auxiliary Board, four years as president.

n Parent Action Team member.

n Relay for Life team captain and participant.

n Hospital volunteer.

n Serving over 500 victims of crime as Emmet County victim witness coordinator.

n Serving as Emmet County Community Service Coordinator.