By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ auditor general, hailed as an example of integrity in a state known for rough and sometimes corrupt politics, announced his retirement Wednesday.
And don’t expect to see Bill Holland’s name on any ballots anytime soon.
Holland, known for no-nonsense performance and a low personal profile, said he’s made no plans beyond doing his job through Dec. 31 and then spending more time with his three children and six grandchildren.
Holland, 63, has been in state government for 41 years, 23 of those as state auditor.
He was chief of staff to then-Senate President Phil Rock, a Democrat, when chosen in 1992 by the General Assembly for his first 10-year term as auditor general, an office established by the state constitution.
He was re-appointed in 2002 and 2012.
Holland’s office, which has a staff about 90 and budget of about $30 million, is responsible for the financial, compliance and management audits of all the state’s agencies, boards and commissions. His position pays about $154,000 per year.
While his findings often spark headlines and investigations, Holland avoids the limelight.
Wednesday’s news conference, he said, marked only his second in 23 years.
His first came after his office’s scathing 2005 audit of the Central Management Services department, a cabinet agency, sparked defensive attacks from Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s team.
Holland would later tell the State Journal-Register that the Blagojevich administration even tried to usurp the functions of his office, and he essentially told senior Blagojevich aides to take a hike.
“I said, ‘I don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have the authority,’” he told the newspaper.
Holland on Wednesday credited his successes and longevity in office largely to three areas: sticking to the job and only the job, an outstanding group of employees, and the security the state constitution gives an auditor general.
The last, he said, gave him the opportunity during the first couple years in office to prove that although he came from Democratic staff, he could do the job well and without an agenda beyond generating accurate, timely audits and reliable reports.
Were he to advise the next auditor general, Holland said he’d say, “respect the position of the auditor general, and don’t try to make yourself bigger than the position.
Holland said he had a deep respect and fondness for his post, which he called “one of the last bastions of fairness and transparency and accountability in the state.”
Praise for Holland’s performance came freely Wednesday from the state’s top officials.
Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat: “Bill Holland has dedicated his life’s work to improving public policy outcomes and government services for the people of the state of Illinois. His knowledge, expertise and eye for excellence have been invaluable to all of those who have had the pleasure of working and serving with him.”
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno: “Despite coming from a partisan background, Bill Holland’s tenure as auditor general has proven his loyalties lie with the people of Illinois. He’s a class act and true gentleman. The taxpayers of Illinois have been well served.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat: “Bill Holland has made many important contributions to work of state government during his tenure as auditor general. He has handled every challenge with skill and professionalism. He maintained the highest standards during several very dark periods in this state’s history. Illinois is a better place because of him.”
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin: “Bill Holland has done a fantastic job as Auditor General. … He is highly respected by members of both parties for being professional and fair. The citizens of Illinois are better off because of Bill Holland’s ability to root out waste and mismanagement in government.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner: “Auditor General William Holland is a true statesman, having served the people of Illinois as auditor general for more than 20 years with the utmost integrity, honor and respect. His appointment to a third term was unprecedented and well-deserved, and it underscores his professionalism and ability to do the job fairly and exceptionally well. The state of Illinois is better because of his service.”
Holland’s successor will be nominated by the Legislative Audit Commission, a body of a dozen legislators equally split between the chambers and the parties. The nominee will require a three-fifths vote in each chamber for appointment and will receive a full 10-year term upon selection.
It takes a three-fifths vote of each chamber to remove a sitting auditor general.