Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery died Wednesday night, it was announced Thursday. He was 53.
County officials initially said Woolery died of natural causes, but later reported that the cause of death would be determined following an autopsy.
Services were scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Calvary Church, 1010 N. Tustin Ave., in Santa Ana. Woolery’s family requested donations be sent to the church’s Orphan Care Fund instead of sending flowers.
Woolery was first elected to the post in June 2014 and began his term in January 2015. He was re-elected in June 2018.
Woolery’s wife, Lisa, said, “Since I was 14 years old, Eric has been my love. He was the very best man, brave, tenacious, a righter of wrongs. He lives on in our children, Liam and Kate, and leaves behind the glue that will bind our family. Please pray for us until we will see him again in heaven.”
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett said she was “deeply saddened” by Woolery’s death.
“He was a great public servant who fought tirelessly for government accountability and transparency,” Bartlett said. “We will always remember his sense of humor, dedication to the county and fiscal `watchdog’ legacy.”
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said Woolery “served the people of Orange County very well” and added, “This is a big loss for our county family.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer praised Woolery as “a good friend, father and public servant” and said he was “shocked by the news of his passing.”
Woolery “brought such a caring and committed attitude to his work at the county,” Spitzer said. “He renewed the integrity of the audit-controller’s office. He was and always will be Orange County’s taxpayer bulldog. He will be greatly missed.”
Tim Shaw, chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority, said Woolery was a “tremendous public servant and played a significant role in safeguarding taxpayer dollars as the chairman of the Taxpayer Oversight Committee at the Orange County Transportation Authority.”
Shaw said he had known Woolery for “nearly 20 years and I always found him to be a thoughtful, intelligent, principled man who believed in doing what’s right for the public. This is a terrible loss for the county and my heart goes out to the Woolery family during this difficult time.”
Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, called Woolery a “dear friend” and said he was a “steadfast taxpayer advocate who used his expertise and experience to promote good and fair government in Orange County.”
Woolery served as the deputy director of administration for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office for seven years before being elected in Orange County. He also served on the Orange County Board of Education and treasurer for the city of Orange.
Woolery graduated from Lutheran High School in Orange and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cal State Fullerton. After his graduation, he worked at the accounting firm Ernst & Young, where he earned his certified public accountant license.
Woolery lived in Orange with his wife, Lisa, who he said on his website was his “high school sweetheart and wife of 22 years.”
Deputy Salvador Lopez will serve as interim auditor-controller.