Don't make the mistake of congratulating Eugene DePasquale on becoming the next auditor general.
“I'm not the auditor general yet,” Depasquale said with a chuckle. “We have one auditor general at a time.”
Until January, the auditor general is Jack Wagner but then DePasquale will be sworn in to a post most Pennsylvanians don't understand. Since winning election to the office, DePasquale's spent a lot of time since explaining to people exactly what the office does.
“The auditor general is there to be the independent watch dog of all state spending and all state programs,” DePasquale recites as if he's been saying it a lot lately.
DePasquale said he met with Wagner for two hours last week and expects his transition to be a smooth one. Job one, DePasquale says, is taking a much closer look at gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
“I've said in the campaign that the number one thing I will focus on is we are going to do an audit of all the water protection programs, to make sure the Marcellus Shale drilling is not negatively impacting our drinking water. That audit will begin on my swearing-in day.”
DePasquale also promises a review of Penn State to make sure no tax or tuition dollars are spent on the Sandusky scandal.
“We will review the spending to make sure that the money is going where it is supposed to go and that is to improve the education for the young adults that are attending that fine university. “
Depasquale will oversee 562 employees and a $40 million budget. And he'll have lots of tough decisions to make. Who to audit? Who not to audit?
“This is not the right job for anyone to have if you're afraid to step on toes. You're the one that makes sure the money is spent right, the programs are running efficiently and effectively. That's the roll as Auditor General, sometimes it may make people uncomfortable but you have to go wherever the information leads you.”
Though elected in a statewide Democratic wave, Depasquale says he'll leave politics at the door.
“The people have had enough of the partisan bickering which is why I've said my job is not to get Tom Corbett. You know you read these stories about this and that, that the new Democrat is in charge now, Corbett's life is going to be more difficult. My job is to look out for 13 million Pennsylvanians and that's what I'm going to be doing beginning day one.”
DePasquale is 41, a lawyer, and lives with his wife and two children in York. He now has a big new job with big responsibilities but he insists he'll not get a big head at winning a statewide race.
“The weekend after the election, I was getting a lot of calls from people calling me general, while I was mulching in the yard because the real general had told me that I had been off the yard duty for three months and that period was coming to an official close.”
After DePasquale is sworn in, the House speaker will schedule a special election to fill York's vacant seat in the General Assembly. It will be spring 2013, at the earliest.