James Nobles spent nearly half a century with the Minnesota Legislature, the last 38 as its legislative auditor. He retired last month as one of the most respected people in state government, colleagues say.
“Throughout his career, Jim has been a stalwart servant of the legislative branch,” Deputy Legislative Auditor Judy Randall says. “He believes deeply in the importance of legislative oversight and accountability and has instilled those beliefs in the staff at the Office of the Legislative Auditor. He is one of the hardest-working people I know; it has truly been an honor to work for him.”
Nobles began his career in the Minnesota House Research Department in 1971 and became deputy legislative auditor for program evaluation seven years later. He was appointed to his first six-year term as the legislative auditor in 1983 and was subsequently reappointed six times. The Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor is tasked with promoting accountability, strengthening legislative oversight, supporting good management and enhancing program effectiveness.
Nobles created a professional institution in state government, and his legacy will live on. I’m happy for the great foundation he helped establish. —Minnesota Senator Mark Koran
Joel Alter, who is serving as interim legislative auditor, says Minnesota legislators with questions about state agencies’ performance, financial management or statutory compliance turned to Nobles.
“Jim would be quick to note that his staff at the Office of the Legislature Auditor have done a lot of the heavy lifting to get answers to those questions,” Alter says. “But Jim’s rock solid integrity, independence, plain-spoken style, and unvarnished presentation of facts have been a constant, and he has earned the trust and support of legislators across the political spectrum.”
Representative Rick Hansen (D), vice chair of the Legislative Audit Commission, says Nobles set a lasting standard of excellence, adding, “His high-quality stewardship of the office is recognized throughout our state and with our legislative peers throughout the country.”
Senator Mark Koran (R), chair of the Legislative Audit Commission and the Senate Technology and Reform Policy Committee, says Nobles’ work made Minnesota a better place. “During his tenure, Nobles was dedicated to making state government operate more efficiently and rooted out its failures without bending to political or bureaucratic pressure. Nobles created a professional institution in state government, and his legacy will live on. I’m happy for the great foundation he helped establish.”
Senator Ann Rest (D), longtime member of the Legislative Audit Commission, says Nobles helped ensure that state government is working on behalf of Minnesotans. “I cannot think of a finer public servant than Jim Nobles.”
Brenda Erickson is a program principal in NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program. She serves as NCSL’s liaison to the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society.