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SHEPHERDSTOWN – West Virginia State Auditor John “JB” McCuskey has been traveling to universities throughout the state to encourage accounting majors to become part of his team. He said he not only needs more employees to handle the tremendous amount of work generated in the state, but he also wants to encourage young people to know that West Virginia is a place to stay, not leave.

Last week McCuskey spoke to members of the Accounting Club at Shepherd University.

He told students there is plenty of work to do in the Mountain State. For example, the chief inspector division of the state auditor’s office oversees the procurement process for the state’s 55 counties, including 55 school boards, 55 magistrate courts, 232 municipalities and more than 500 other local governments and 400 volunteer fire departments. 

With that thought in mind, McCuskey said he currently has 35 employees but needs 80. Getting those employees is particularly challenging in places like the Eastern Panhandle, he said. When asked why, he offered a one word reply, “salaries.” 

Students here can seek employment in nearby places like Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, Maryland, for higher pay. 

With that thought in mind, the State Auditor’s Office created an auditing scholars program for undergraduate and graduate accounting students. Under the program, participants work with a trained state auditor for six months then can go anywhere in the state to get clients of their own. They receive payment from the auditor’s office. If they remain in the program for five years, participants can receive financial assistance toward a CPA certification and full or partial reimbursement of tuition for a master’s degree program.

McCuskey said the program gives its participants much more freedom and flexibility in their lives. They don’t have to commute to Charleston.  

Seeking more young people for his office will help the state as a whole, McCuskey said. Another section of his office is in charge of tax delinquent properties that go unused. 

“You could help people own homes. Rebuild their lives,” McCuskey said. “Also we have modern technology and data in our financial accounting system, but antiquated rules.” 

Fraud is something else the auditor’s office sees every day, he added.

“Everybody steals,” he said. “Stealing from each other is bad enough, but I think stealing from the government is terrible. We lose confidence in our government. You can help bring that back.”  

McCuskey is well acquainted with how government works, or doesn’t. He was a two-term member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 35 from 2012 to 2016. He told the students he was not an accountant but a lawyer, a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law and worked as an attorney for a Charleston law firm for six years. Before attending law school, he worked as a civilian for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, in the offices of the Army and Department of Defense general counsels.

Concerning his experience in the state legislature and how legislators think, he asked the students, “How much should educating students cost? Legislators looked at what was spent. It’s not what was spent but what should be spent. Working in state government, you can help find solutions.”

He added that legislators in the state and nationwide are “so combative with each other. Incapable of compromises. I think everything is negotiable.”

Shepherd University’s Accounting Club has 13 members. McCuskey’s appearance had about 30 students in attendance, filling the room at White Hall.

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