Q&A with Brian Kroshus, candidate for the Republican nomination for North Dakota state auditor
Brian Kroshus, who is stepping away from his post as publisher of the Bismarck Tribune, has announced his candidacy for the office of state auditor. The office has been held since 1996 by Robert Peterson, who announced earlier this year he will not run for a sixth term.
Kroshus, 51, visited with the Herald's editorial board last month. Below are his answers -- edited for brevity -- to various questions posed by the editorial board.
Q. You have said you always wanted to run for office. Why auditor?
I think the position of auditor matches up incredibly well with my skill set. I really do. I have managed in challenging economic periods and in a challenged industry -- although I hate to say it's a challenged industry.
I have the confidence to go in and know that I can do a very good job with this. The financial part, and the performance part -- all of these components -- I have done those on a daily basis. As publisher, you pore through an incredible amount of information, data, figures and numbers on a daily basis.
I looked at the set of duties that the state auditor needs to perform, and I didn't see an area that I felt anything but a strength.
Q. Do you have a fallback idea if you don't win?
I plan to win the election. That's really how I approach things in life. You don't take anything for granted. I know I will have to adapt at times and obviously listen to what the voters want throughout all of this.
Q. What do voters want in a race for auditor?
I'm not sure a lot of voters, to be really honest, know exactly what the auditor does. I want to relate to voters and tell them the reality is the state budget has doubled over the last 10 years. Revenue forecasts go up, and they go down. Right now, we're looking at a downward trend.
The state auditor -- through performance audits -- can play an important role in making government more efficient. That, they can relate to. And it's about stretching tax dollars further and being considered a valued resource to state agencies.
That is the single-biggest reason I wanted to run.
As I mentioned, I am not sure voters know what auditors do. Audits are about ensuring accuracy and compliance of state funds and making sure the funds are being spent appropriately and in the manner in which they were intended, following legislative intent and following state law. Are the funds spent properly and are the books accurate?
Most people understand that, but when you look at performance audits, I think that's a great opportunity for the state.
Q. As a newspaper publisher, what experience have you gained that can help you as auditor?
In a lot of ways, the job mirrors the auditor's position.
First, it's about transparency; journalism is also about transparency. That's really important in state government. Taxpayers know how funds are being spent and that state government is doing it right.
The second part is, the publishing industry has been a challenged industry. Many industries have been challenged after the market decline in 2008, and publishing is one of them. We have had to adapt to find ways to be more efficient. That never ended, and for 10 years, that was a daily part of the job.
As publisher, I had to ask, how can we be more efficient and how can we do things in a better manner? And how can we do it in a way that maintains the integrity of the product and serves the community in the best way?
Q. Why should voters go with someone from the outside vs. someone who has experience with state government?
I think voters want candidates from the outside, without question. I think they want that outside experience. The reality in the private sector is you don't get a fresh set of funding every year or every other year. You have to make it work on a daily basis. You have to be proactive. You have to think outside the box and make things happen -- not only for the short term, but to preserve the long-term integrity of what you're doing.
I think that experience will be a great asset to the state, and I would look forward to having that opportunity to serving in that capacity.
Q. Are there any state agencies in particular that you feel should be looked at?
No. Going into any audit, you have to be objective. You don't know what the findings will be. To have a preconceived notion that one agency or another agency isn't doing things properly isn't an approach I would take and, frankly, I don't think anyone would be in that position because, until you actually conduct the audit, you don't know what you're going to find.
You hope the financials are accurate, and you hope they are in full compliance. You don't know exactly what you'll find when you look at performance audits. You really need to gather the data first and then analyze it and make that determination. So no, I can't think of any, and I wouldn't want to name any. It just wouldn't be appropriate until I see the information.
Q. Auditor races aren't necessarily known as exciting. Do you feel you need to get people excited about this race?
I think the turnout should be good because it's also a governor race. How the governor's race shapes up will depend on who runs from other parties.
Again, it's just one of the things I hope to bring to the position -- educating the public more on what the office really does, and why it's such a valuable resource for the state. The state has been run well, but (recent downturns in the oil and ag industries) are a reminder that we have to adapt to the periods of the time.