Andrea Lea’s first exposure to government bureaucracy came when, as a parent, she led an effort to establish a swim team at her son’s high school, a push that required new funding and multiple approvals from different groups. “By the time I’d done everything, I had learned how one person can make a difference in a community,” she says.
The experience led her to run for local office. She served on the city council in Russellville, about an hour northwest of Little Rock. Lea then served three terms in the state House, where much of her efforts focused on the budget or issues pertaining to government efficiency. Running for state auditor, then, seemed like a natural fit.
Since taking office in 2015, Lea has worked to transform the agency into one that is more customer-friendly. Some of the changes she has made involve small details, like redesigning envelopes so they don’t look like they’re from a government agency. She’s also ushered in new technologies: A redesign of the website has helped the office process 354 percent more property claims, and to help residents search for and file claims for unclaimed property, her office has set up kiosks with iPads throughout the state. “We’re taking it to the people,” she says, “instead of trying to get them to call us.”