When John Curran walks through the corridors of the Olathe City Hall, he sees friendly faces rather than people trying to duck his eye.
Many people feel threatened by auditors, he says. But people have been open and pleasant during his post in Olathe, a job he will leave this month when he begins working for the University of Kansas.
“In the past, I’ve been cussed up and called horrible names, just because I’m the auditor calling people out on something,” Curran said. “That is not the environment in Olathe at all. The city has been extremely supportive because we all have the same goal of making Olathe better.”
But later this month, the friendly Pittsburg, Kan., native will be moving on to a new job.
“We will miss him so much, because he has been such a great team player,” said Mayor Mike Copeland. “He has achieved so many significant accomplishments during his tenure at the city and they all resulted in the organization running more efficiently with a higher level of transparency for the benefit of the people of Olathe. And for that, I’m very grateful.”
Curran became the city auditor in 2006, after working for the state of Kansas and at Sprint. Later this month, he will begin his new job as the director of internal audit for the University of Kansas.
And the 37-year-old says he will be going with plenty of lessons he learned in Olathe.
Being the sole internal auditor in Olathe has been an interesting job, he said. It required him to wear many hats and learn the mechanics of each department. Sometimes not being able to delegate tasks or departments to anyone was a challenge, but one he calls fun, overall.
“As an auditor, you’re a life-long learner because you go into subjects you know nothing about and have to come up to speed very quickly,” Curran said. “So, I like to tell people I know a little about a lot. Every day brings a different puzzle I have to figure out, and I really enjoy it.”
His job mainly involves risk assessment, and seeing how the city can run more efficiently. He keeps an eye on what fees are owed to the city. He has also spent hours scrutinizing the city’s vehicle fleet and the police department’s evidence room.
He said it’s extremely important to look at the bigger picture before he offers his input.
After all, he knows there’s more to everything than what meets the eye.
“People live and breathe their work, and as an auditor, it’s important to respect their opinion and thoughts,” he said. “It’s a very helpful part of the job.”
His perspective has helped Olathe, officials say.
“Like every city, we’re not perfect, so having John take the time to understand the operations of each department before making his suggestions has only helped make our city better,” said assistant city manager Susan Sherman. “He has really been a partner, which is a rare thing to say about an auditor, but it’s true. His input has been invaluable.”
Curran is flattered by the high praise, and despite moving up in his career, admits he is sad about leaving his job at the city.
“Driving home, I can see the impact of my audits and how my work really affects my family and neighbors,” he said. “It’s that connection which has made this job important to me. It’s rewarding to see that I’m actually making a difference.”
Although he’ll be working in Lawrence, Curran has no plans to leave his home in Olathe. He says he will commute to work and still be involved in the community. After all, he’s a member of the Olathe Rotary Club, plus he and his wife have many close friends in the area.
Soon, the mayor and City Council will look another auditor to take over from Curran.
In January, they will draw up a profile for an ideal candidate and work with the Human Resource department to start the interview process.