The two candidates for Champaign County auditor are borrowing a refrain first made popular by the Jackson Five and later revived by Mariah Carey.
"I'll Be There" is the assurance both Democrat George Danos and Republican John Farney give, after current Auditor Tony Fabri got roundly criticized for not spending enough time in the office.
"The people of Champaign County can fully expect me to be working in the office full-time," Danos said in response to a News-Gazette questionnaire.
The auditor needs to be on site to supervise staff and confer with other department heads, he said.
Farney vows that, as auditor, he will not work from home.
"I believe that the auditor should be working a regular schedule as other county employees and elected officials do," he said in his response to the questionnaire. "I will be a hands-on auditor, involved in the day-to-day operation of the office."
Where Danos and Farney differ is their backgrounds.
Danos, 47, of Champaign is a political newcomer, making his first run for office. He once worked as a financial analyst at Christie Clinic and PersonalCare and now does substitute teaching in the Urbana schools.
He received a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in actuarial science, both from the University of Illinois.
Farney, 35, of Urbana has previously run for Urbana city clerk and the Champaign County Board. Since 2007, he has worked in the Champaign County clerk's office, handling voter registration, database management and the maintenance and set-up of election equipment.
He received an associate degree from Parkland College and a bachelor's degree in political science from Eastern Illinois University.
Both candidates say they want to work with the county board, but will point out problems when they arise.
Danos said he'll attend county board meetings regularly, serving as a watchdog who "points out mistakes or wrongdoing, but does so without rancor or settling scores."
Farney said he'll strive to collaborate with the county board, but won't be afraid of pointing out waste and inefficiency when it occurs. He pledged to attend meetings of the county board and its finance committee.
Both candidates spelled out goals for the office, noting a replacement needs to be hired for Carol Wadleigh, the chief deputy auditor who retired this summer.
Danos said he wants to put the county's checkbook online so taxpayers can track expenses with user-friendly searches. At some point, the office will need to update its accounting software, he added.
Farney said he wants to make county financial documents easily searchable. He also aims to create a fraud phone line that can be used to report waste and fraud. Farney also said he'd like to form an audit commission of community members who would look at county government and its function.
Danos said he has experience in forecasting, reporting, auditing and the financial modeling of large contracts, and that could come in handy when the county decides on the future of its nursing home and jail.
He said former Auditor Laurel Prussing — now the Urbana mayor — set the standard to which he aspires.
Farney said he has a long track record of speaking up on county issues and has seen firsthand the operation and interaction of the auditor's office with other departments.
"Democrats control the county board, and it looks like they'll have it for a while," he said, adding that a Republican auditor could be "a check on the board."
He pointed to DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan, Champaign County Treasurer Dan Welch, former County Clerk Mark Shelden and current County Clerk Gordy Hulten as his role models for taking the job.