Candidate touts training role of auditor

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 31, 2007

Stacey Pickering spent Thursday morning in Brookhaven visitingbarber shops, banks and retail stores to meet the people of LincolnCounty and spread the word about his candidacy for stateauditor.

“We’ll be in Brookhaven about half a day and then down to Summitand McComb for the rest of the day,” the Laurel native said.

He capped off his trip to the area by watching the SouthwestMississippi Community College Bears host the Itawamba CommunityCollege Indians Thursday night.

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“It’s an opportunity to visit with people at a grassrootslevel,” Pickering said. “I’m a product of the community collegesystem and I believe in them.”

Pickering graduated from Jones County Community College andlater Samford University and New Orleans Baptist TheologicalSeminary. He commuted to the seminary for three years while livingin McComb.

The District 42 state senator said he is a fiscal conservativewho will increase performance audits on government and ensurepublic officials have the training they need when they acceptoffice to avoid inadvertent violations in the use of taxpayerdollars.

“That’s one of the first things I want us to do – make sureofficials have the training and resources they need on the frontend to ensure they don’t mistakes while in office,” Pickeringsaid.

In many cases when an official is investigated for misuse ofpublic money, it often results in findings that the official wasunaware they were in violation of the law, he said.

He hopes to strengthen the educational role of the office ratherthan serving as an enforcer of the law.

“The auditor’s office is where the buck stops when it comes toensuring that Mississippians get their money’s worth from stategovernment,” Pickering said. “State and local governments inMississippi spend billions of dollars in taxpayer money each year.As a fiscal conservative, I want to make sure that our tax dollarsare spent with the integrity the taxpayers expect and deserve.”

He said as the state continues to recover from HurricaneKatrina, $40 billion in federal recovery funds flowing intoMississippi and an office that has a $10 million budget and 60employees, it is important to have a state auditor who knows how tolead.

Pickering, whose cousin is 3rd District U.S. Rep. ChipPickering, said his career has proven he can lead. He was electedas a senator for District 42 in 2004 and serves as the chairman ofthe Local and Private Enrolled Bills committee, where he wascentral to economic development projects like Toyota. He has servedon the committees of Finance, Constitution, Highways andTransportation, Oil, Gas and Forestry and University andColleges.

He was the founding chairman of the Mississippi Sportsman’sCaucus.

“We have to have an auditor with the integrity to make the rightdecision because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Pickering authored two bills in the 2007 session of theLegislature that reveal his intentions for the state auditor’soffice.

The first would have authorized the state auditor a departmentalattorney and revised prosecution for misspent funds. A second billwould have required actual incarceration for the theft of publicfunds.

Both bills died in committee.

Stacey and his wife, Whitney, live in Laurel with their fourchildren. They are active members of First Baptist Church ofLaurel.

Pickering will face Mike Sumrall in the November generalelection for the right to succeed State Auditor Phil Bryant, who isseeking to become lieutenant governor. Sumrall won Tuesday’sDemocratic primary runoff over Todd Brand.