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Watkins not running for re-election as auditor

Posted: January 18, 2018 4:22 p.m.
Updated: January 19, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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Robin Watkins

After some 40 years in the county auditor’s office, nearly half of which have been as auditor, Robin Watkins says she is ready to start slowing down and take it easy. 

Watkins recently announced that she would not run for re-election for county auditor, a position she has held since 1999. While this means she will step down at the end of her term, she still has a little more time in the job -- her replacement will not take office until July 2019.

Watkins, who started her career in a private CPA firm in Camden, came to the county in 1977.

“I heard about an opening over here and the first thing I thought was, wow, state benefits, that’s something to think about,” she said. “I never really thought I would wind up doing this -- it’s not exactly a job everyone in the world aspires to, and yet, what we do is very interesting and very important -- we set the millage rate and do the billing for taxes for the entire county.”

I’ve certainly learned a lot and enjoyed it,” she said.

Watkins worked under two other auditors, Serena Ogburn from 1977 to 1979, then Brenda Truesdale, who retired in 1999. Watkins ran that year and won; since that time, she has been re-elected five times, running in four of those elections unopposed.

During her time as auditor, she has seen her share of changes. When she first started, every tax record was hand generated and all receipts were kept in stacks and stacks of huge binder books.

“You would get your notice, then when you paid at the treasurer’s office, they would manually stamp your receipt. We would get a copy of that receipt and file it,” she said. “If you needed a copy of a past year’s receipt, we’d have to pull down these huge books and look through them by hand.”

Unpaid bills were filed in a drawer; at the end of the fiscal year if they were still unpaid or no receipt marked “paid” had been filed, the auditors’ office would have to generate, by hand, all the delinquent tax notices, she said.

The office became more automated, although the first computers were still somewhat labor intensive; they would generate long, massive spreadsheets that still required paper filing.

Eventually, the auditor’s office, like the rest of county government, would be equipped with up-to-date technology with technology, making it much more efficient to locate information, generate bills and store past documents. 

The auditor’s office would also eventually move from the basement of the court house to its present location in the county government center.

Watkins said she will miss the job, but is ready to move on to the next chapter.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” she said. “This is the best group in the world to work with -- they all do such a great job. But I think it’s time to enjoy other things.”

For one, she and her husband plan to do quite a bit of traveling. 

“We’ll be doing a lot of RVing,” she said. “To the beach, to the mountains, to some places I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t had the chance yet.”

Some of those bucket list trips include the Grand Canyon, Alaska and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, she said.

But for now, there is still plenty of work to be done right here, she said. For one, she has already started a journal of her job so that whoever takes her place will have thorough, day-by-day, boots on the ground look at what her job consists of and what her office does.

“I’ll still be around to help whoever takes my place, if need be,” she said.

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