A Republican lawmaker from southwestern Indiana was named the new state auditor Monday, just weeks after her predecessor stepped down four months into the job.
Gov. Mike Pence tapped Evansville Rep. Suzanne Crouch to succeed Dwayne Sawyer, who announced he was stepping down Nov. 26 "due to family and personal concerns." His last day was Sunday.
Sawyer had been climbing the Republican Party ranks, headlining local fundraisers, before his surprise departure. He was the first black Republican to hold a statewide office in Indiana and had been expected to seek a full term as the state's chief financial officer in next year's election.
Instead, Crouch, who takes office Jan. 2, will serve out the remainder of former Auditor Tim Berry's term and said she plans to seek election to a full term in the fall. Berry vacated the job to run the Indiana Republican Party.
Indiana Democrats have criticized the auditor vetting process which yielded Sawyer, but Pence took a different tack this time. Pence noted that he reached out to Crouch, as opposed to taking one of the candidates who sought him out for the vacancy.
"The reason I picked up the phone and asked her to have a cup of coffee is because I just think she is uniquely qualified to serve Indiana as auditor of state with great distinction," Pence said.
Crouch, who has a lengthy record in Republican circles, said she was surprised when she got a phone call from the governor asking her to consider the job.
"This is a unique opportunity to not only serve the entire state of Indiana, but also to work with those bodies of government that I have been involved with and cherish the time I spent with them," she said.
The auditor accounts for all state money, pays the state's bills, pays state employees and oversees county, city, town and school tax distributions.
Erin Sheridan, longtime chief of staff in the auditor's office, will serve as interim auditor until Crouch starts the position.
Crouch served two terms as the Vanderburgh County auditor and was president of the Vanderburgh County Board of Commissioners before being elected to the General Assembly in 2005. She has served as vice chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Crouch is a graduate of Purdue University. She and her husband, Larry Downs, have a daughter.