Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump joked with the crowd at Whittier Regional High's Advisory Board Dinner about what her job entails.
"Most of you are sitting there wondering what is it that the State auditor actually does?'' she said at Thursday night's event. "Does she have copies of my tax returns? Should I leave before she starts to ask me questions?"
She assured them she is not that kind of auditor, but one who is on their side "following the money spent in state government to make sure your tax dollars are being properly spent."
Bump was the keynote speaker at Whittier's annual Advisory Board dinner, an evening that brings together more than 200 leaders in area business and industry who volunteer on Whittier's Program Advisory Board. Members work closely with the school's vocational-technical instructors to keep them current in workforce standards and industry trends, and often supply co-op jobs or future employment for graduates.
"You are the life blood that keeps Whittier going," Whittier Superintendent William DeRosa told members. "I can't thank you enough."
The crowd of 275 people included state Rep. Harriett Stanley of West Newbury, Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer, Whittier School Committee Chairman Charles LaBella, Haverhill School Committee Chairman Joseph Bevilacqua, Shawsheen Superintendent Charles Lyons and Bump's husband, Paul McDevitt.
Bump has held the job for more than a year and prior to that served as state secretary of labor and workforce development for three years. In those roles, she said she asks the questions, "how much did you spend, where did you spend it and what did you get for it? But the most important question is 'how can you do it better?"'
She compared that to the work of vocational-technical schools.
"I know that you understand this because our vo-tech schools have long operated in this way," she said. "I need no convincing of the bang-for-the-buck value of vocational education.''
"Every day here at Whittier Tech, students are doing amazing things and this evening's dinner hosted by your culinary arts students certainly provides ample evidence of that,'' Bump said. "From carpentry, automotive repair and plumbing to IT networking and robotics, Whittier is preparing its students with the skills employers need for both today's economy and tomorrow's. I congratulate Whittier and its faculty for their hard work, and I thank all of you on the Advisory Board for your tremendous commitment."
As is tradition at the dinner, several items were raffled off, including a picnic table made by carpentry students, a large basket of beauty products, and a gift bag containing Whittier clothing.
Two wooden, fold-up camp chairs made by carpentry students were presented to Bump as a gift. She said she had been admiring them all night, thinking how perfect they would be for trips to Tanglewood Music Center, where she and her husband often enjoy outdoor concerts.
"I'm thrilled to have them," she said. "Thank you very much, and thank you for having me here tonight."