Milene’s employee badge from when she worked at IBM.

Milene’s employee badge from when she worked at IBM.

County auditor is a steward of the people

  • Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

by Tara Anderson

Contributor

Fifteen years ago, Milene Henley ran for the position of San Juan County Auditor. She was the only woman candidate seeking the position. Henley succeeded and took office on Jan. 11, 2007. She has run unopposed and held the office ever since.

As County Auditor Henley serves as the Chief Financial Officer for the local government. Her duties include a broad listing of responsibilities including budget preparation, financial reporting, asset tracking, licensing, and elections administration. In her spare time Henley is also an Enrolled Agent and helps a small handful of clients with accounting and tax preparation, a service she has been providing for 43 years.

Henley joked with the crowd at the Washington State Auditors Finance Convention in 2018 “What’s the difference between an accountant and a lawyer?” asked Henley, “Accountants know they’re boring.” But Henley is anything but boring.

After graduating from Harvard University, she went on to earn an MBA from Stanford Business School during a time when women business leaders were not the norm. In 1978 she took her first job working for IBM as the Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. The environment for women in business has changed significantly since the 1970’s.

“I had some “me too” moments early in my career,” recalled Henley. However, as a woman professional in current-day San Juan County, the story is much different. “I never felt discriminated against in local government. Women are well represented here,” said Henley. “Among our population gender doesn’t matter. Everyone is expected to conduct themselves with compassion and professionalism. Women in business are not rare now,” said Henley.

Henley has a reputation for being tough, smart, and direct. “One can address problems without being unkind,” said Henley. She identifies as being compassionate, honest and trustworthy, traits she inherited from her father who was also an accountant.

In 2016, Henley received the honor of County Auditor of the Year from the Washington Secretary of State due to her work in transitioning management of the county auditors association, and her steadfast commitment to stewarding public dollars. “I feel very strongly that I work for the people,” said Henley, going on to describe how as an elected official she feels the people have expectations of her and she has a duty to meet those expectations.

Henley demonstrated her commitment to protecting public funds, encouraging efficiency and providing transparency throughout the years. During her tenure, she has provided regular reports to the public and worked to strengthen fiscal policies with consistent enforcement. Henley is proud of small things like the faster turnaround of payments to vendors. She is proud of big things like getting a reserve policy adopted and moving to a biennial budget process.

“It’s a hard job, but it’s worth it,” said Henley. “People say it’s a thankless job, but people thank me all the time,” Henley recently announced this is her last term as County Auditor. She plans to retire and is excited to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.