An “ace” is typically defined as someone who is an expert at what they do. The dictionary entry is missing one thing, though: A picture of Gary Ace.
Ace, a financial specialist in the State Public Defender’s office, is known as the go-to guy for many of the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep the office up and running.
A retired Air Force veteran, Ace has worked in the public defender’s office for the past 25 years. He worked in the trial and training divisions before moving to the agency’s fiscal operations; that’s where he really made his reputation.
In this role, Ace oversees all the expenses related to discovery, open records, medical records, interpreters and expert witnesses. As one of two specialists, he helps process more than 14,000 vouchers; each voucher contains as many as 99 bills.
With these expenses, Ace ensures that all payments are confined to the exact penny that is allowed by statute or rule. In fact, his colleagues joke that he throws around nickels like they were sewer covers. He finds this part of the job particularly important, since taxpayers are the ones paying his wages.
“I figure that is my primary responsibility, is be a watchdog for the taxpayers,” he said.
Ace found his love of working with numbers while attending Vernon College in Texas, where he studied accounting. He also has found that the skill he developed while serving in the Air Force for 20 years has served him well in his current role.
“The attention to detail, the paperwork, knowing what the rules and regulations were,” he said, listing some of what he learned in the military. “And that’s basically the same as I am using here. I apply the rules and make sure the information that comes across the desk meets those requirements.”
Ace’s colleagues also know him as the office mechanic and the “copier-whisperer.” Although these duties aren’t formally in his job description, Ace volunteers to try to remedy any shortcomings in office equipment.
For this, Ace credits his upbringing on a Wisconsin farm, where he said he “became a jack of all trades.”
Also helpful with the copier repairs was the time he spent in the Air Force, where at one point he had the job of making promotional folders at night.
“If the copy machine went down, I was done,” he said.