Minnesota officials conducted a nationwide search for someone to take over the state's top government watchdog office, but they ultimately landed on someone close to home.
Judy Randall took over the job of Minnesota's legislative auditor in November, an office she'd already worked in for more than two decades.
It was partly her depth of knowledge of the state office and ideas for the future that appealed to legislators in selecting Randall, who'd been serving as deputy legislative auditor for the office's program evaluation division.
"The person who is the legislative auditor has changed, but the work of the office hasn't changed, and the people who are doing the work for the most part hasn't changed," Randall said. "And we still have the same expectations: We deliver reports that are accurate, objective, timely and useful."
Her staff of more than 50 auditors examine the performance of state programs and hold agencies accountable for how they spend tax dollars. Legislators request many audits, but the office can initiate its own. Their findings are public.
Randall is stepping into a role previously held for 38 years by Jim Nobles, who retired in October. She acknowledges it's been daunting at times to consider whose shoes she has to fill.
"It's humbling for sure. I worked with Jim for 23 years, oftentimes very, very closely," she said. "I feel really lucky having been able to work with him for so long and learn so much from him."
Randall landed in the Twin Cities more than two decades ago when she and her husband were looking for a place to raise a family. She'd studied math, economics and education policy in undergraduate and graduate school. Randall knew she wanted to work somewhere that wasn't political but also made government work better.
She applied for an entry-level job in the legislative auditor's office that has led to a career. She was part of a team that dug into gaps in the state system for reporting abuses in elder care facilities, and she helped with an evaluation of the state's teacher licensure program that led to changes in how that system is structured in Minnesota.
Looking ahead, Randall said a recent change in state law will also allow her to take resources usually dedicated to auditing federal funds and put them toward other areas. She thinks more eyes are needed on the state's aging IT systems, and she'd like to be nimble to respond to more narrowly focused audits that crop up as needed.
But much of the office's work will continue in the same understated fashion that's become its hallmark, Randall said, deflecting the attention away from herself.
"It's really not about me," she added. "It's about the work of the office."