JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's state auditor represents a stark contrast to the increasing trend of political campaigns to restrict and control media access.
While many candidates shy from unscripted comments that can haunt a campaign, Democrat Susan Montee seems to revel in the unprepared, unscripted environment.
In a 2009 Christmas Greeting's YouTube video with Montee sitting next to a cozy fireplace, she repeatedly joked about the fake cat placed on her lap and repeatedly rejected the efforts to put a Santa hat on her head.
"I'm not wearing this, with this hair," Montee said holding up the crimson hat. "I'm not wearing the hat!"
She also poked fun at Christmas sweaters and the fake snow.
While the YouTube video was obviously staged, it did reflect a degree of candor for which Montee has gained a reputation in the statehouse.
That off-the-cuff attitude was apparent when she was asked about her most favorite audit during her four years as Missouri auditor. "I hate to be this way, but the scandals are the big ones."
There is, however, a serious side to the CPA and attorney.
Montee says what makes her the best candidate for state auditor is her professional backdrop and understanding of the office.
"We really are a CPA firm," said Montee."It comes down to experience to run the office," she answered when asked if she were more qualified than Republican opponent, Tom Schweich, who is not a CPA.
Schweich responds to this by saying he has worked with CPA's his entire career and understands the audit process.
"What they need right now is better management capability, which I bring to the table, and that law enforcement, tenacity and toughness that's lacking right now," Schweich said. "And that is what I would add...that is the dimension I would add to the excellent group of CPA's that are already there."
Montee is the first auditor in Missouri's history to be both a CPA and a licensed attorney.
She received her B.S. in accounting from Drury University in 1985 to become a CPA. She returned to law school later in life and received her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who has been missing in action since 1966.
Montee is a divorced mother of three children, Andy, Austin and Amanda. She moved to Jefferson City from St. Joseph after winning the State Auditor election. It was after her election that her marriage ended in divorce after more than 20 years.
The incumbent state auditor started her political career in 1999 when she held a seat on the St. Joseph City Council. Montee served concurrently as Buchanan County Auditor for two years. Montee gave up her seat on the city council in 2003, but continued to serve as county auditor.
She has said on multiple occasions that she never meant to run for office, and that it was never a part of the plan. Instead, she is now one of Missouri's top elected state officials.
Montee says her approach in her first campaign for state auditor in 2006 was to pay attention to the rural areas of Missouri, and not just target the urban areas of the state. Montee says she wanted to talk more about the job and the office, not the political landscape and climate for Democrats and Republicans.
Montee says that if you go into areas that are voting a certain party and talk to them about how your office is separate from everything else, your message is much better received.
"They will vote for a person and not a party," said Montee.
The State Auditor's office staffs 118 people; some of the staff has worked at the Capitol for many years prior to Montee coming Jefferson City. Montee says the infrastructure of her office doesn't change based on who is running it, which makes the political climate different for a state auditor.
"It is important to have someone who does not have a political agenda," said Montee.
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