Used permission from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
“I do not have a big political organization to conduct my campaign. Nor do I have big signs nailed to trees, fences and posts to disfigure the countryside. I do not want such a campaign. My habits and desires are in keeping with my resources. They are plain and devoid of all pretenses.” — Ana Frohmiller speaking in a radio broadcast during her 1950 gubernatorial campaign.
In 1950, when Ana Frohmiller became the first woman in Arizona to be nominated for governor, her campaign was launched with the slogan: “I offer the voters experience, not an experiment.“
It was a claim she could justly make. She had held public office since 1922, winning 14 consecutive elections and, as the state’s auditor since 1927, earning a reputation as a tough administrator. No matter how small the sum, Frohmiller felt it was her obligation to see that the state’s money was not wasted. She was outspoken and willing to take on the establishment if she believed it was wrong.
“Ana Frohmiller, State Auditor, refused yesterday to honor bills totaling $1,804 covering expenses of a buffet luncheon given in connection with the recent inauguration of Dr. Byron McCormick as president of the University of Arizona,” stated an article in the June 12, 1948, issue of The Arizona Republic.
“Ana Frohmiller questioned the expenditure on grounds it was not for a public purpose and further, that it in no way benefited the educational progress of university students. The luncheon guests reportedly dined on cold turkey, baked ham, potato salad, rolls, spiced peaches, ice cream and cake.“
Ana Frohmiller’s ability to say “no” to officials made her a perennial favorite with the public. During her last six terms as auditor, she didn’t bother to campaign, a fact that didn’t stop her from swamping her Republican opponents when there was competition in the elections.
By 1950, when she announced her intention to run for governor, she was among the two best known women in the state, her only rival being Jacque Mercer, a Miss Arizona who had gone on to become Miss America.
As it often is, the road to success was paved with hard work for Frohmiller. Born on July 28, 1891, in Burlington, Vermont, she moved with her family to Phoenix when she was 7 years old. When she was a sophomore at Phoenix Union High School, her mother died, leaving a baby boy three days old and six other brothers and sisters younger than Ana. She was only a teenager, but Ana took charge of the family. She quit school to take a position as a bookkeeper in a meat market. Then in 1916, at the age of 25, she was offered a better bookkeeping job in Flagstaff with the Babbitt Brothers Mercantile Co. Taking “her” children with her, she accepted the job. She worked for six years as a bookkeeper for the Babbitt Company, continuing her education at night school and with correspondence courses.
By 1922, when the Coconino county treasurer resigned with his term uncompleted, she had established herself as an expert auditor. She was appointed to complete his term, and in the fall of the same year was elected in her own right to a two-year term. She served as Coconino County treasurer until 1926, when she was elected state auditor. She would serve 12 terms – 24 years in all.
As auditor, Frohmiller received, investigated and passed judgement on financial claims against the state, including payrolls, expense accounts, contractors’ bills and pensions. She handled about 45,000 claims a month and during her years in office and authorized an estimated $400 million in legitimate claims. She rejected about one in a thousand claims often attracting headlines when she did so. She took on the Arizona State Legislature in one case, the governor in another, and the entire Pima County contingent in the House of Representatives in yet another case. She challenged anybody she felt was incorrectly using the state’s money.
It took her 10 years to bring about a complete audit of the state’s books. Recovery of the funds misspent and the enactment of a modern financial code for the state took five more years, with frequent setbacks and defeats. She became a moving force in the National Association of State Auditors and was consulted by many states on modern accounting procedures.
On May 16, 1950, Ana Frohmiller announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor. In a characteristically concise statement, she said:
“Economy has been my watchword in the office with which the people have entrusted me 12 times. I believe no one questions that I have always fought to get a dollar’s worth for every tax dollar spent. As auditor, I have never hesitated to reject what I considered an unjust claim against state funds. As governor, I will have authority to strike at waste and extravagance at their source.“
Although she won the Democratic primary, Frohmiller was defeated in the general election by Republican Howard Pyle. The margin was slim; less than 3,000 votes. Her friends urged her to demand a recount. But to do so would require a great sum of money, which Frohmiller naturally could not see spending. She announced that she would not pay for such a venture, and would not ask her supporters to pay for it. “I am out of politics,” she declared. Ana Frohmiller went on to become the founding secretary and treasurer of Southwest Savings and Loan Association, a post which she held until 1962.
She died on November 25, 1971, in Prescott.