February 23, 2018

Kymber Waltmunson (MPA ’04)

King County Auditor, King County 

What does your job entail?

I am the director of an independent audit office within the legislative branch of King County government. We conduct oversight of county government through independent performance audits and monitoring of capital projects. A performance audit is a systematic examination of evidence to assess the performance and management of government activities against objective criteria with the goals of improving efficiency, effectiveness, equity, accountability, and transparency. Our work results in a written report presented to the King County Council and published online for the public. You can find our reports at http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/auditor.aspx.

Why is the work you do important?

The public trusts government to act in their best interests and spend their money well. It is our job to be both the public’s watchdog and government’s coach. Auditors are naturally both critical and idealistic and we get to use those underappreciated personality traits to make things better for people. For example, over the last three years we’ve identified $127 million in one-time financial impact, $13.6 million in annual ongoing savings. We helped the county to be more prepared in the event of a disaster, identified ways that the Sheriff could better detect and respond to concerning officer behavior, and recommended ways that paramedics could provide more sensitive emergency care to the public in need.

We use our influence to create change—last year nearly 90% of our recommendations were implemented by county departments. It is so much fun to see the county work better because of our efforts. Often even when departments say they disagree with one of our recommendations (generally less than five percent of the time) they end up implementing it anyway.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My team. I get on the bus every day excited to work with exceptionally committed, bright, creative, knowledgeable people. And the fact that we get to work together to address really hard problems like homelessness, transit, garbage, sewers, and technology makes it even better. I love watching everyone succeed and offering support and suggestions to make them even better auditors and change agents.

What lesson/s from your graduate education still influences you today?

“Watch your authorizing environment.” At Evans we spent a lot of time working to understand who our stakeholders were and what they needed. Audits are by definition fact-based endeavors, but creating change takes a real understanding of the environment. What are the department’s interests? How can I work with them to not only understand our recommendations, but *want* to implement them? What do the elected officials need from our work and how can we deliver? What does the public want in this situation? My practice both identifying the questions and developing the answers at Evans has been invaluable in my success.

What has been the most surprising part of your career?

That my team and I have applied literally every course I took at Evans in our work. From statistical analysis on overtime in the Sheriff’s Office, to performance management in the Real Estate Division, to review of budgeting for multi-year capital projects, to understanding policy analysis in law enforcement oversight, to strategies for managing people, and so many more I can’t name them. Take good notes because you’ll wish you remembered all the things professors told you.

What advice would you offer to a graduate student at the Evans School?

Identify your stories and tell them. Don’t just say, “I am reliable.” Anyone can say that and no one will remember it. What they will remember is an engaging story that you tell that demonstrates your reliability. No matter what interview questions people ask you, you will be able to fit your stories in if you choose them well. Even when you aren’t interviewing, it is the stories you tell that will engage people and get them to act.