By Jake Stern Powell
“How do you make complex auditing law understandable?” Rayellen Smith asks, as she reflects on her 30-plus years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the largest accounting and professional services firms in the world.
By simply asking this question, she distills the challenges of her career as an auditor, team leader, and Director of Learning and Development Innovation into a single query.
Rayellen communicates this way naturally. Often, she starts with a basic fact: “I was very interested in doing something,” she says when asked to chart her path to become President of the local progressive group Indivisible Nob Hill — before layering on details that build to a more comprehensive picture.
Her approach to effective communication is apparent in the goals she laid out in her unopposed run for Democratic Party of New Mexico Treasurer. For instance, when talking about how critical transparency is regarding the party’s financial status, Rayellen notes that jargon-laden reports can obscure as much as they reveal: “All the information is publicly available. You can go to the FCC website and download all the transactions. But that doesn’t give you insight into what the party is actually doing with your money: How we’re spending it. How we’re raising it.”
To Rayellen, clarifying the complex isn’t merely a matter of upholding a key personal or party principle. It’s also a solution to an ongoing problem: “Most Democrats in the state don’t donate money to the Democratic Party of New Mexico. They donate money to candidates,” she explains. “But we need money to grow our party, and we’re not making a strong and solid business case around doing that.”
Rayellen points out a direct connection between transparency and donor value: “People will donate when they see information about what the organization is doing with their money. We need to tell them ‘You know, we raised two thousand dollars, and here’s what we spent it on.’ If you do that, and they believe in what you spent it on, they’ll donate more.”
Rayellen has already demonstrated her ability to help the party through fundraising, transparency, and financial stewardship during her term as treasurer for the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County. She’s also exemplified organizational leadership during her time at PwC, where she set up organizations engaged in repeatable, scalable processes defined by norms and quotas. She refers to this type of work as “operationalizing,” again taking a complex system and offering a succinct summation.
In her role as DPNM Treasurer, Rayellen plans to craft in-depth training programs for county- and caucus-level financial directors and treasurers. She hopes that by highlighting transparency and further building out the party’s fiscal infrastructure, DPNM can carry out a 33-county strategy that ensures every race for every political office in the state includes a financially viable Democratic candidate.
Of course, there are times where Rayellen understands transparency must be rightfully unavailable. When asked if her work at PwC, which serves as the official vote-counter for the Academy Awards, gives her any insights that may help a certain interviewer’s Oscar pool, she responds simply: “No,” she says with a laugh. “None.”