State auditor leaves a legacy of service to state and country following untimely death
Missouri State Auditor and governor candidate Tom Schweich, a St. Louis County native, died on Feb. 26 at the age of 54.
A rising star in the political world, Schweich began his career in the private sector as a lawyer, and practiced for over 20 years in the realms of contracts, corporate internal investigations, audits, litigation and commercial disputes.
While he has a long legal background, most will remember Schweich for his public service.
He served as the chief of staff in the investigation into the conduct of the U.S. government during the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas. Three U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations – John Danforth, Anne Patterson and John Bolton – relied on Schweich as their chief of staff, work which credited him with uncovering the Oil for Food scandal, according to the state auditor’s website.
Schweich also served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state and acting assistant secretary of state at the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in the state department, and later became the U.S. coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan. In 2007, president George Bush awarded Schweich the rank of ambassador. In 2010, he sought and won the people’s votes, and became state auditor.
Locally, Schweich may be most remembered for his assessment of the Rockwood School District as part of a state audit and his recommendations that helped that district get its house in order. In August of 2013, Schweich said, “The (Rockwood) Board of Education, administration, superintendent and the entire district have done an excellent and transparent job in implementing our recommendations.” In many ways his remark was a seal of approval for the district.
Former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives Tim Jones said he had worked closely with Schweich in his role as state auditor, and respected the work Schweich did in that office. Jones said that Schweich was always very proud of his audits and could spin a humorous story about many of the audits that he had worked on.
This past November, Schweich won his second term as state auditor, but nearly immediately set his sights on the governor’s mansion.
Former Missouri Senator Jane Cunningham introduced Schweich in January when he announced his campaign for governor. She said she supported him because no one knew more about the state government than Schweich did.
“He knew where all the skeletons were buried, because no one was able to hide them from him,” Cunningham said. “Nobody has been able to hide from Tom Schweich.”
Cunningham said the first time she met Schweich was at the Missouri State Senate, when former U.S. Senator John “Jack” Danforth (R) pulled her off the Senate floor to make the introduction.
“He (Danforth) said ‘Jane, Tom Schweich is more conservative than I am,” Cunningham recalled.
Cunningham lauded Schweich for his innovations to the auditor’s office, including the rating system he implemented and a rapid response team that would react quickly if he suspected documents were being destroyed.
“Tom was brilliant, far beyond just about anybody else I’ve met in my government career,” Cunningham said. “He was creative … he was hardworking and he had a backbone, which is extremely rare in this business.” Like many in West County, Cunningham lauded Schweich’s role in the Rockwood School District audit, which brought several items to light that required immediate attention from the district.
“That was quite a service to the Rockwood taxpayers, to reveal the problems that needed to be dealt with,” Cunningham said.
Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul said Schweich was never afraid of a fight, and was in the business for the right reasons.
“He was a rebel, in a good way,” Paul said. “I consider him one of the few that was a public servant, not a politician. There’s a big difference.
Politics weren’t the only arena in which Schweich excelled, according to Cunningham, who noted that Schweich was very much a family man, one whose wife and two children he loved and admired.
“My heart first and foremost goes out to his family,” Jones said. “I knew not only Tom, but had the very pleasant opportunity to meet his wife and his children on many occasions.