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Technology, Democratizing Data, and the FDTA with Megan Kilgore

Where Public Finance Works

Episode 8 Show Notes

“It’s really easy to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible using technology. But the important thing is to make sure that we use a human touch. It has to be front and center so that we remember who we're serving, not just getting there as quickly as we can.”

- Megan Kilgore, City Auditor of Columbus, OH

Episode Summary

In this episode of Where Public Finance Works, we’re joined by Megan Kilgore, the accomplished City Auditor of Columbus, Ohio. Megan takes us through her journey from a child inspired by public figures like Margaret Thatcher and Sally Ride to becoming a leading force in one of America's fastest-growing cities. She shares her passion for public service and how her upbringing in a hardworking, blue-collar family shaped her values and a people-first approach to government finance.

Join our host, Tyler Traudt, as he leads us through Megan's insights on the complexities of managing a city's finances during rapid growth and maintaining trust with a diverse populace. Megan discusses the innovative solutions her office has implemented, including deploying technology to enhance efficiency without losing the crucial human touch that ensures services are people-focused.

Touching upon the Financial Data Transparency Act (FDTA), Megan addresses misconceptions around governmental fraud and the act's intention to modernize financial reporting. She shares her passionate view that the FDTA isn't about defending against fraud but rather about democratizing data, making information more accessible and easier to understand, which ultimately serves the public good.

Megan's drive for modernization — from "COBOL to cloud" — has marked her tenure as City Auditor, and her leadership has seen Columbus through significant fiscal challenges. This episode not only explores the strategic financial initiatives Megan has spearheaded but also reveals her belief in the creativity and capability of government workers to innovate and excel in public finance management.

✈️ “Aviate, navigate, and communicate. That’s how you keep things moving. You focus on what you have to do, navigate as best you can, and always communicate. ”

- Megan Kilgore, City Auditor of Columbus


Featured Guest

City Auditor of Columbus, Megan Kilgore, is the first woman elected to this executive branch position in Columbus. In her role as City Auditor, she has pioneered significant advances in fiscal management for the 14th largest city in the United States.

Serving since January 2018, Megan's tenure is marked by her supervision of seven critical departments. She handles debt issuance, investor relations, a $2.8 billion investment portfolio, citywide accounting, and payroll services for a workforce of 10,000, while also modernizing three significant technological systems.

Megan also imparts her knowledge as an Adjunct Lecturer at The Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs. She has been shaping the minds of graduate-level Public Finance students for over a decade, bringing her on-the-ground experience into the academic sphere.

Megan's previous roles have fortified her expertise in municipal advisory services, which she provided to various local entities in Columbus while at H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, CPAs, LLP. This experience, coupled with her 11-year tenure as Assistant City Auditor and her foundational work at the Ohio Attorney General's Office, has ingrained in her a deep understanding of public finance and its impact on community development.

Top Takeaways From Episode Eight

  1. Growth Management and Trust Building: As the City Auditor of one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, Megan emphasizes the importance of balancing infrastructure development with maintaining affordability. She advocates for building trust in government through every public interaction, highlighting the significance of maintaining personal connections in an era increasingly reliant on technology.

  2. Embracing Change and Innovation: Megan discusses the transformative journey from legacy systems to modern solutions, such as moving from COBOL programming to cloud-based technologies. She talks about the role of her team's creativity and critical thinking skills in managing this change, proving that public sector teams can be as innovative and dynamic as those in the private sector. Megan also touches on the FDTA, emphasizing the act's role in democratizing data rather than simply serving as a safeguard against fraud.

  3. Leadership Through Crisis with Composure: Megan shares the mantra of 'aviate, navigate, communicate' that has guided her leadership through the pandemic. This principle encapsulates the essence of steering through a crisis with focus, direction, and transparency. Megan's application of this approach during uncertain times demonstrates the importance of composed leadership in navigating public finance through challenges, ensuring the city's resilience and the community's trust are maintained.

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