JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Tom Schweich took office Monday as Missouri auditor with a prediction from one his most prominent supporters that he will drive government workers nuts. It was meant as a compliment.
Schweich, a former State Department official under President George W. Bush, beat out Democratic Auditor Susan Montee in the November election. The keynote speaker for his inaugural ceremony at the Missouri Capitol was former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a longtime friend and law firm colleague who encouraged Schweich to run for elected office.
"Tom Schweich is exceptionally bright and energetic. He is well organized and driven to do good work," Danforth told about 200 people at Schweich's inauguration. "It is highly likely that he will drive all of you in state government nuts.
"But then, it's the job of a good auditor to drive people nuts," Danforth added.
Schweich, 50, of St. Louis served as Danforth's chief of staff when the former senator was appointed in 1999 to head a federal investigation into the Branch Davidian siege at Waco, Texas. Schweich fulfilled the same role when Danforth was appointed ambassador to the United Nations in June 2004. Bush appointed Schweich to the State Department in 2005 as an international law enforcement official and later chose him to coordinate the anti-drug and justice reform efforts in Afghanistan.
With Danforth's encouragement, Schweich initially considered running for U.S. Senate in 2010 before ultimately opting to seek the state auditor's office in his first campaign as a candidate.
As auditor, Schweich pledged Monday to look for ways to make government function better at a lower cost.
"I promise to be high-energy, tenacious and fair in trying to get results for the people of Missouri," Schweich said.
The Missouri auditor's office has authority to point out problems and recommend changes to governmental entities. But it does not have the power to enforce its recommendations. Nonetheless, Schweich said he intended to make sure his audits are implemented into policies by working with agencies.
"We will follow up, we will follow through and we will deliver," Schweich said.
Schweich said he also intends to highlight things that government is doing well.
Montee, who served one four-year term as auditor, already has begun her new role as chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party.
Schweich was the only Missouri official to take office Monday, because the auditor operates on an opposite election cycle from the rest of Missouri's statewide offices. Newly elected legislators were sworn into office Wednesday.