Two finalists for auditor-treasurer position

Brian Hoff, an appraiser in the Fillmore County assessor’s office who lives in rural Wykoff, and Heidi “Bly” Jones, a finance officer in the auditor-treasurer’s office who lives in Ostrander, are seeking the position of auditor-treasurer.

The two advanced to the Nov. 6 general election ballot after winning a primary election in August. The auditor-treasurer position is being filled on an interim basis now, so there is no incumbent.

The two were requested to respond in writing to questions about the position.

Why are you seeking this position?

Hoff: I was encouraged to file for auditor-treasurer by a number of citizens that use the auditor-treasurer office on a regular basis and am running for auditor-treasurer to help serve the residents of Fillmore County. My hope is to improve inter-departmental communication and efficiency, which would benefit the taxpayers of Fillmore County.  One of my favorite work related quotes is from former UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden, who says, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Jones:  I am seeking this position, as I’m passionate about serving my community and promoting transparency to the taxpayers of Fillmore County. Continuing my public service in my current department after 11 years is the next natural step in my career. As a property owner in Fillmore County I have invested, just as you have. It’s important to me, and statutorily required, the public is informed and educated on where their tax dollars are going. I’m passionate about doing the right thing even if it means harder work. I believe no one is successful on their own and employees are a valued investment.

I’ve learned in my previous leadership positions that no one is successful on their own. Employees are also an investment and should feel valued and trusted. To manage employees, one must understand the duties they’re tasked with. After providing the resources, employees should be updated, valued, and entrusted to complete tasks effectively and confidently. When we succeed as individuals, we surpass succeeding as a team. Prevention and taking responsibility to correct errors when they arise is imperative and I will do my due diligence to resolve them. A leader continues to grow by mutual respect, acknowledging ideas, weaknesses, strengths, and continuous planning for the future. I am that passionate leader. I am certified, trustworthy and principled. I look forward to serving as your next auditor/treasurer.

What experience do you have that will help you in your position as county recorder? 

Hoff: I have nearly 35 years experience working with the public, a variety of lenders, government units and agencies while handling insurance and banking duties, human resources, appraisals/assessments and related duties.  I have experience in management, sales and marketing, customer service, claims handling and adjusting, employee benefits, real estate appraisals, loan underwriting and inspections, and farm and residential construction.  I am an analytical decision maker and creative problem solver with the ability to work independently and as a team member.  I currently serve as the region representative to the State Ag Committee for the Minnesota Assessors (MAAO).   

Jones:  My experience is directly with property tax administration, records, settlement, finance, auditing, elections, and much more. I have completed the auditor/treasurer courses at the Minnesota Department of Revenue and am certified for property tax calculations, board of appeals and others. My previous banking industry, budgeting and auditing experience is essential since we are the central finance office for the county. As a legal assistant, I became acclimated with state statute, a vital trait, as a majority of our duties are mandated by legislation. My education and vast experience have directly molded me to succeed as your auditor/treasurer.

I’ve assumed many responsibilities within our office at one point or another and am prepared for the challenges in assuming more. Currently, I calculate rates and taxes for proposed and certified. It’s also my responsibility to disburse the monies received to each district and fund within the county, a yearly average of $30 million. I prepare supportive documentation for governmental entities and auditors. I’ve put in valuable time in research, training to ensure accuracy and compliance with mandated legislation. As a leader, I combine the desire for personal growth for each employee with the passion to succeed as team.

What do you see as major challenges for the auditor-treasurer’s office in the future? Where do you see opportunities for change?

Hoff: My 11 years in the Fillmore County Assessor’s Office has provided a good deal of insight into the needs of the office through inter-departmental processes that take place between taxes and real estate transactions.  This insight, when implemented, will allow for a cost effective and efficiently run government office.

Jones:  There are several upcoming challenges that will come into focus. We are converting to a new property tax system in the near future. In depth knowledge of the system, jobs we need to accomplish, and staying abreast of any foreseeable issues is important for a successful transition.

With the additions to the 2020 elections, resources and training will pursue to ensure we have dedicated staff for both elections and daily operations. Being properly trained to confidently fill each role and not “burning the candle at both ends” are equally important to prevent errors. Being properly trained is key to confidently filling each role as well as deter valued employees at Fillmore County from considering employment elsewhere.

If elected auditor-treasurer, what is the first thing you would do?

Hoff: I was a successful track and cross-country coach for 25 years, as well as Minnesota State High School League track and field official for the past 27 years.  Much of my coaching style and skill sets from being a coach and official will help in instilling and creating a well-oiled team, not only in the auditor-treasurer office, but this team approach should translate well across other inter-related departments and government agencies within the county and outside of Fillmore County.

Jones: If elected, the first thing I would do is ensure my current duties as finance officer would be fulfilled, even if that means I must proceed with some of the tasks until they can be reassigned.

Cross training duties is a high priority and in order to accomplish that, we need to be fully staffed. Consistency and auditing tasks help us eliminate issues at the forefront therefore processes will need to be reviewed to ensure we are utilizing our resources to their fullest by having a round table discussion.

I would also meet one on one with each staff member as well as a whole. I want them to succeed as individuals with their own goals and help provide them with the tools they need to reach them.

I would also reach out to other counties to see if they have resources we can pool together to assist our needs in some areas as well. There are a lot of resources out there and chances are, there are other counties looking to accomplish the same things or have already succeeded. This could be done as a cost savings to our county or at the very least the possibility of cost-sharing with another county.

Biographical information

Hoff: Brian Hoff, age 60.

Spouse: Carolyn Hoff; three children, six grandchildren.

Occupation: certified Minnesota assessor – income qualified (CMA-IQ); employed by Fillmore County Assessor’s Office since 2008.

Resident of Fillmore County for majority of my life, growing up in Preston and residing in rural Wykoff for the past 25 years.

Avocation: Coaching and officiating for track and field and cross-country.

Education: 1976 graduate of Preston-Fountain High School; AA degree, Golden Valley Lutheran College, 1978; BS degree, Winona State University, 1983.

Hobbies: Hunting, projects at home, time with family and friends, traveling to see children and grandchildren.

Jones:  A little about me, I have lived in Fillmore County a majority of my life. I grew up in Beaver Township and graduated from Kingsland High School. My parents are Marge and the late Robert Bly. I have two adult children. My son, Dom Jones, is a concrete finisher. He and his new wife, Kayla, are the parents of my beautiful granddaughter. My daughter, Lexi Jones, is a preschool teacher at St Johns in Wykoff.

My residence for the past 12 years has been in Ostrander where I am serving my second term on City Council and on the Uffda Days committee. For the last 11 plus years, I have worked directly in the auditor/treasurer’s office at Fillmore County. Additionally, I am serving as president of Bluff Country Toastmasters Club 1181. To give back, I volunteer with St. Croix Hospice and provide companionship services to those nearing end of life. I attend Grace Church in Stewartville. At 41 years young, I have many years left to invest in my career as your next elected auditor/treasurer.