Rebecca Otto is Minnesota's 18th State Auditor. She was first elected in 2006, beating the Republican incumbent in the largest upset in 112 years after receiving the endorsement of three previous State Auditors from both major political parties. The victory was also remarkable because the seat has traditionally been in Republican hands, and it occurred in a year in which the Republican governor was re-elected.
Rebecca is the first woman Democrat to be elected State Auditor, and the only Democrat ever to be re-elected.
Otto is serving her third term after winning a high-profile 2014 primary 81%-19% against a self-financed opponent who outspent her 4 to 1, and going on to win the general election by her widest margin yet, outperforming the governor's margin in every congressional district.
Rebecca Otto announced her campaign for governor in January of 2017 by saying "My campaign is going to look a little bit different. I think there's been a lot of talk lately and not enough listening and truly understanding" voters. Rather than telling voters about her policy positions, Otto began by asking them to share their hopes, dreams, concerns, and priorities through a statewide and online listening tour, and will incorporate their feedback into her policy proposals.
Background and Experience
Rebecca has ten years experience as Minnesota's State Auditor and is the only Minnesota State Auditor to earn the National Excellence in Accountability Award and to serve as president of the National State Auditors Association. As of 2016, she is the fifth longest-serving State Auditor nationwide.
Rebecca Otto's voting record on the State Executive Council shows her political courage in being willing to take tough stands, opposing new mineral leases for nonferrous mining unless the taxpayers and workers of Minnesota are protected. Voters respect and value that courage. In the 2014 election, after her vote, she outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan on the Iron Range.
Rebecca works regularly with federal, state and local levels of government to make good things happen for Minnesotans and nationwide, and teaches government auditors from around the country and several foreign countries how to better protect taxpayer money. Rebecca has a deep understanding of money at all levels of government, an excellent preparation for governor, and has been able to have unprecedented influence both in Minnesota and nationally, where Minnesota is regarded as a leader in government transparency.
Most recently, Rebecca launched a big data mapping initiative covering Minnesota's aging infrastructure, the first in the nation. It maps the age, use and condition of Minnesota's infrastructure interactively using state and local government data, so local government and legislators can make wise investment decisions.
Rebecca serves on the State Board on Investment, overseeing the management of $80 billion in state investment and public employee pension funds. She also serves on the Public Employees Retirement Association, the State Executive Council, the Public Land Exchange Board, the Rural Finance Authority Board, and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Board, where she has been a strong advocate for energy efficiency and for ending homelessness.
As a state representative from the Stillwater area, Rebecca was the first to bring former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, together with former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat, at her 2004 One Minnesota Get Together, to talk about forging a common vision for Minnesota. She served Minnesotans on the House Local Government, Environment, and Agricultural Policy and Finance committees. In 2003, then-Representative Otto united legislators of both major parties in her effort calling for a truly balanced state budget. This helped earn her the prestigious New Legislator of the Year Award.
Prior to that Rebecca served on the Forest Lake school board and on the district's ad-hoc finance committee, and she chaired a successful $52 million school levy campaign in the conservative district.
A certified science teacher with a biology degree and a Masters of Education, Rebecca was a proud member of Education Minnesota and taught public school life science for five years, with 185-195 students per year. She became a teacher because she loved kids and believed in giving back.
Rebecca Otto has deep experience in small business. For several years prior to teaching, Rebecca served as president of a successful 50-employee contracting business that she and her husband cofounded and later sold.
In 2014, Rebecca was named one of the 15 most influential government auditors in America by the Institute of Internal Auditors, the 180,000-member worldwide professional organization of private sector auditors.
In August of 2014, Rebecca received the President's Award from the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers, who cited her work on the National Alliance to Transform State Government Operations.
She was elected by her peers to be president of the National State Auditors Association in 2013.
In 2013, she was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota.
In 2011, she received the League of Minnesota Cities President's Award "for unwavering support of Minnesota local government in enhancing effectiveness, efficiency and accountability for all Minnesotans."
She received the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association for her work supporting firefighters, the sixth person and the first Constitutional Officer to receive this honor.
She earned the National Excellence in Accountability Award in 2009 for a major report on saving energy in local governments.
She was an Honoree of the National Women's History Month, alongside Hillary Clinton, Sally Ride, Jane Goodall, and other "Women taking the lead to save our planet," the 2009 theme.
She is one of only 10 elected women State Auditors nationwide.
Education & Volunteering
Rebecca has a Certificate of Achievement in Public Plan Policy/Employee Pensions from the IFEBP, and a Certificate of Achievement in Pension Trustee Continuing Education from the NCPERS.
She holds a Master’s of Education from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Biology from Macalester College.
She has served on several boards and committees and has been a volunteer for a number of organizations, including Warner Nature Center and Big Brother/Big Sisters.
She chairs the Human Resources Committee and is past president of NSAA and serves on the Executive Committee of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers.
Born in San Diego, Rebecca moved with her mother and three siblings to Chicago after her parents divorced. At age 13, her father died, and the next summer her mother began sending her to a YMCA camp that ran long treks into the Boundary Waters, where Rebecca learned resilience, leadership, and the value of the great outdoors.
She adopted Minnesota as her home state, and later attended Macalester College, where she met her husband Shawn. The couple founded and built a 50-employee business which Rebecca ran and they later sold. To give back, Rebecca earned a Masters of Education from the U of M and taught public school science for five years, leaving to be home with their son.
In 1995, concerned about climate change, the couple designed and built a renewable energy home with their own hands in rural May Township, which they open regularly for tours. It has been toured by thousands of people interested in green building. It is passive and active solar, wind-powered, superinsulated, and has geothermal heating. Both Rebecca and Shawn drive electric cars powered by wind and solar energy. The house is on a small farm where they keep horses and cut hay.
After their son entered school, Rebecca turned her focus to community service. She served on a school district finance committee, then chaired a successful school levy campaign and was elected to school board in the conservative Forest Lake area. Rebecca was then elected a Democratic state representative in the same year Michele Bachmann took office as the district’s Republican state senator.
In 2006 she was elected State Auditor after unseating Republican Pat Anderson in the largest victory over an incumbent in 112 years.
Shawn is a writer and science advocate who produced the US presidential science debates in 2008, 2012, and 2016. He wrote and coproduced the movie House of Sand and Fog. His book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, won the Minnesota Book Award, and his novel Sins of Our Fathers, set on Minnesota's Iron Range, won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the LA Times book prize. His latest book is The War on Science, a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award.
The Gilfillan Farm, site of Minnesota FarmFest, was a family farm on Shawn's side and he spent a lot of time there in the summers. He and Rebecca used to visit Shawn's great aunt, Ann Gilfillan, there. CD Gilfillan, Ann's father in law, founded the Minnesota Republican Party.