GOP's Eckstrom, Meilinger to face off in comptroller race

Eckstrom (left), Meilinger (right)

The race for state comptroller general pits incumbent Richard Eckstrom against Republican primary challenger and Greenville-area accountant Michael Meilinger.

Eckstrom, the state's comptroller since 2002, was state treasurer from 1994-98. He is the first certified public accountant to hold both positions.

Eckstrom said he was drawn to public service as treasurer because he saw a need to change the state's antiquated investment policy. A new cutting-edge approach to money management has yielded billions of dollars more for South Carolina, he said.

"I'm motivated by the challenge to try to make a difference," Eckstrom said.

As comptroller, Eckstrom said he centralized the state accounting system. Where once there were 74 different computer programs used to track state money, now there is one common system. "We've gotten nearly 80 agencies on board and have two to go," he said.

Eckstrom cited a "transparency initiative" in the office of comptroller general that includes detailed information about individual state agency spending being made publicly available on the Internet. "Being publicly transparent is the way government is going to have to do business in the future," he said.

Meilinger will challenge Eckstrom in the June 8 GOP primary.

Meilinger is a certified public accountant and certified financial planner who is president of Meilinger Consulting, P.C. in Greenville. The firm's services include forensic accounting, business and intangible valuations, expert testimony and litigation support, divorce accounting and management consulting.

Meilinger said he loves South Carolina and is a lifelong resident of the state and a product of its public schools and universities. "I want to give back to the state, and I believe South Carolina could do much better in its government. I believe my accounting background will serve me well in finding areas of government waste and overlap," he said in an e-mail response to questions from The Post and Courier.

He said his greatest issue with Eckstrom is one of perspective. "Mr. Eckstrom has become a creature of government. He has spent 12 of the last 16 years in elected office. It's been a long time since Mr. Eckstrom had daily experience with the private sector," Meilinger wrote.

Meilinger cited his strong background in forensic accounting as an asset when it comes to serving as a watchdog for how tax dollars are spent. "My small business background will help me make logical, sound, and prudent financial decisions when it comes to spending the taxpayers money," he wrote.

Charleston area restaurateur Robert Barber, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, faces no opposition in the Democratic primary for comptroller general. He will face the GOP winner in the general election Nov. 2.