Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe, the first woman appointed to head the department, is retiring next week.
At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, she was praised for her 25 years of service by Supervisors Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Zev Yaroslavsky, among others.
“I would be lying to you to say it was a very easy job,” she told the board. “It was not.”
Assistant Auditor-Controller John Naimo was appointed to serve as acting auditor-controller, effective March 31.
Watanabe and her husband Dennis, who live in Manhattan Beach, plan to relocate to Henderson, Nev.
Watanabe is responsible for overseeing a department with 587 budgeted positions, an annual operating budget of $83 million, and an additional integrated applications budget (e-CAPS/e-HR) of $54 million.
The Department of Auditor-Controller is responsible for establishing county fiscal and internal control policies and procedures; administering the county payroll; conducting audits and fraud investigations; monitoring social services contracts; performing mandated property tax functions; disbursing warrants to vendors, child support recipients, judgment and damages to claimants; and managing the county’s enterprise financial and payroll systems, e-CAPS and e-HR.
Watanabe also oversees the issuance of the Los Angeles County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Taxpayers’ Guide, and Single Audit Report.
She started her career with the county in 1988, at the Department of Auditor-Controller. She later worked for the Department of Beaches and Harbors, Chief Administrative Office (now Chief Executive Office), and the Sheriff’s Department, all in the capacity of an administrator in budget, fiscal, and information technology areas.
In 2004, she returned to the Department of Auditor-Controller as the assistant auditor-controller; she became the chief deputy in 2006, and was appointed by the Board of Supervisors as the county auditor-controller in January 2009, becoming the first female auditor-controller in the county’s 150-year history.
She has been active with the Los Angeles County Asian American Employees Association, serving in such positions as recording secretary and first vice president.
Watanabe received her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from California State University, Los Angeles.