Become an auditor | WORLD

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, December 15. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Hello. I am Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next The world and all in it: The watch dogs of the government.

They are known by various titles: State Auditor. Comptrollers, Examiners and Inspectors General. Regardless of the title used, each oversees public finances.

REICHARD: Today, WORLD editor Kim Henderson introduces us to the Mississippi State Auditor. It’s a role he’s been planning for a long time.

KIM HENDERSON, LEAD WRITER: Mississippi State Auditor Shad White is making a name for himself as a corruption fighter. Like when he uncovered the biggest fraudulent scheme in Mississippi history — over $77 million in mis-spent welfare dollars.

ANCHOR: New cases have come to light involving a mother and son charged with millions. . .

But before all that, White made a name for himself at Northeast Jones High School.

TUCKER: I always liked Shad. He was just one of those kids that was in there. He was easy going – never a discipline problem, ever. I followed the rules, you hear me? Shad is going to play by the rules.

Ann Tucker at the school Shad White attended

Ann Tucker at the school Shad White attended
Photo by Kim Henderson

It’s Ann Tucker. She taught White when he was in ninth grade. She has taught at Northeast Jones for 63 years.

TUCKER: He wasn’t the kind of kid that was out there just honking his horn and doing all that stuff. He was motivated, already had his goals in mind. I was even thinking about the university I remember in 9th grade.

Tucker has also taught former NBA player Kenny Payne, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn and HGTV star Erin Napier. But these days, she’s genuinely happy to have an alumnus sitting in the state auditor’s office.

Shad White has been very busy there.


White is a married father of two preschoolers, with another child on the way. Since taking office four years ago, he has recovered more than $65 million. He was only 32 when he started work. His youth seems almost out of place in the State Office Building, a 1949 Art Deco skyscraper.

White in his office

White in his office
Photo by Kim Henderson

White is a clean cut, with a short hairstyle suited to his side: JAG officer for the Mississippi Air National Guard.

WHITE: I had a really happy childhood in a very small town. . .

White comes from a blue-collar family, but he seems tailor-made to fight white-collar crime. He went to college with his game face.

WHITE: A lot of people have been using it as a resort for four years, and, you know, in my mind, that wasn’t what I was there for. By the end of my college career at Ole Miss, I felt like I had exploited the place as much as possible. . .

White studied economics, but he also fell in love with politics. He made Ole Miss history as the only student to land the Truman and Rhodes scholarships. Rhodes’ victory took White to England.

WHITE: Oxford University has a reputation for being a Keynesian school. And I disagreed with the Keynesian worldview. . .

But the school brought in guest teachers and lecturers.

WHITE: It was a really interesting intellectual environment because I felt like I was seeing multiple points of view on the economy.

Harvard Law School came next. There White served as president of the Federalist Society, a conservative organization.

WHITE: It made me the most popular person on campus, as you can imagine. (Laughs)

But under White’s leadership, the group became the largest chapter in the country. He gave the floor to the speakers who were New to many Harvard law students.

WHITE: . . . talk about the importance of stable families, a stay-at-home mom and dad. We brought in a teacher to talk about the legality of praying before public meetings. We invited professors to talk about the benefits of entrepreneurship.

White's Old Church

White’s Old Church
Photo by Kim Henderson

White is the son of a youth minister father and a church organ playing mother. He says being a Christian makes his job as a state auditor easier because he believes in absolute truth.

WHITE: We don’t live in some sort of postmodern landscape where everything is moot in the auditor’s office. We enforce rules on how you can and cannot spend public money. . .

When addressing crowds, White describes listeners as “investigators”. Not everyone is thrilled with what his team discovers.

WHITE: You have the chance to do really meaningful work, but it comes at a price, and the price is that you’re going to have to face criticism on a fairly regular basis. And that’s okay, because it’s the price of admission.

White receives hate messages, threatening messages on Facebook. Church members have told White he was wrong to arrest some of the defendants in the welfare case currently rocking the state.

WHITE: I wake up and pray this prayer of the First Kings, Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. “God, give me the knowledge to tell right from wrong,” and that gives me the confidence I need to come in every day and do this work impartially.

White is confident, but he’s not arrogant. He’s just saying he’s committed to making Mississippi as corruption-free as possible.

WHITE: I see politics as a means of obtaining positions that are necessary to occupy in order to advance good politics.

And that has his high school English teacher, Ann Tucker, both smiling and a little worried.

TUCKER: Every time I see in the paper where he did something. I always say to my husband, “Well, if he’s showing up for something else, I hope he has someone good coming for his office.” I want it to continue—which it is doing—because it is long overdue.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in southern Mississippi.

REICHARD: To see photos and read the full story on Shad White’s fight against corruption, search for the December 24 issue of WORLD Magazine and we’ll link to the digital version of the story in today’s transcript. of this show today.

WORLD Radio transcriptions are created on very short notice. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of WORLD Radio programming is the audio recording.

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