The Idaho controller is responsible for paying the bills of the state’s 90 agencies and the salaries of its 25,000 employees. That includes conducting internal audits of state spending, maintaining a centralized financial management system and paying claims against the state.
Controller Brandon Woolf has held the office since 2012, and while he technically has two challengers in the race from the Democratic and Constitution parties, it appears he is the only candidate actively campaigning.
Democratic candidate Dianna David declared her candidacy for the post in mid-March but has not raised or spent any funds and did not respond to requests for an interview by the Idaho Capital Sun.
Miste Gardner is running as a Constitution Party candidate, but has not raised or spent any funds since declaring her candidacy in March. Gardner, who also uses the last name Karlfeldt, leads Health Freedom Idaho, a group that protests public health measures and vaccines. She owns the website Idaho Dispatch.
Woolf grew up on a dairy farm in Preston, Idaho, and jokes about the fact that it was the location depicted in the film “Napoleon Dynamite.”
“Both Pedro and I were student body presidents,” he said in an interview with the Idaho Capital Sun.
Woolf and his wife, Janalee, were sweethearts since third grade. They married in 1994, and three years later, former Controller J.D. Williams asked Woolf to be an intern in his office.
“He comes riding up on a horse in the Preston Rodeo Parade, in front of all my in-laws and extended family, and he says, ‘Hey Brandon, I can get you a job starting in two weeks,’” Woolf said.
Woolf has been in the controller’s office ever since. He has worked as a training specialist in the patrol division, a bureau chief, division administrator, deputy chief of staff and chief of staff.
He was appointed to the position of controller by Gov. Butch Otter in 2012, when former Controller Donna Jones was in a serious car accident and faced a long recovery from her injuries. He served the remainder of her term, ran for the job in the 2014 election and won.
“I always wanted to be involved and do something in the community, I just at the time thought I’d wait until my (three) kids were older,” Woolf said. “But when the doors opened, I took that chance.”
The controller also serves on the Idaho Land Board and participates in certifying election results with the Idaho Secretary of State.
The controller also acts as a secretary to the Idaho State Board of Examiners, which examines all outside claims against the state. The governor, secretary of state and attorney general are the voting members of the board. The board recently approved the payment of more than $321,000 to the successful plaintiff in a case over a law related to birth certificate gender changes.
Woolf: There’s more we can do to be efficient with transparency efforts
Woolf calls the controller’s office the state’s checkbook and refers to the treasurer’s office as the state’s savings account. Within that financial responsibility, he has pushed for more transparency to build trust in government. That included the launch of Transparent Idaho in 2013, which lists public information related to state employee salaries and agency expenditures.
Woolf wanted to go further with transparency efforts through a project called Luma, a business software that will standardize the budget, financial management, procurement and payroll process for employees across the state, with information that will be open to the public. That system is scheduled to go live in July 2023.
There are other aspects of transparent.idaho.gov he hopes to improve in the next four years if re-elected, Woolf said, and he is always open to other suggestions that would build more trust in Idaho’s government.
“Government can’t be run like a business, but it can be more efficient,” Woolf said. “I just want to help build that confidence and trust again.”
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