October 27, 2010
Pettis County Collector
Democrat Kathy Ulmer and Republican Marsha Boeschen hope their own unique experience will help secure voter support on Nov. 2 in the Pettis County collector race.
The office is responsible for collecting current and delinquent property taxes for the county and a number of political subdivisions within the county — such as libraries, schools and fire districts — which have authorized property tax levies. The two women are seeking to replace Democrat Robert Leftwich, who is retiring after 35 years in office. To accommodate the budget year, the collector does not take office until March.
Both women told The Democrat that the two major constituent issues facing the office — going to multiple payments a year on tax bills and allowing the Missouri Department of Revenue to verify tax payments online when people renew car registration — are dependent on how the county budget looks in the coming year.
Ulmer has worked at the Pettis County Courthouse since 2005, spending most of her time as a deputy in the Pettis County Recorder’s office as well as part-time work through tax season in the collector’s office.
“I like to work with figures and I was raised in the family business (Jim’s Tire Service) so I understand how important it is to keep good records. When I found out Bob was leaving I thought I could do a good job,” Ulmer said.
She said she had looked into the multiple payment option, but questions how many people would use the service. She said the current computer system is already set up to handle multiple payments, so “there shouldn’t need to be any changes there.”
However, she said, the county could incur additional mailing costs for issuing multiple bills through the year, and insisted she would have to examine the budget before coming to a final conclusion.
As to the DOR verification issue, she said 73 Missouri counties currently offer this service, but she found while researching the issue during the campaign that it is only used 2 percent of the time. She said she worries that the cost to the county would outweigh the potentially low number of people who actually used the service.
Ulmer said she also was worried that the county would lose some revenue as it currently charges a $1 fee to reprint tax receipts for people needing verification for the fee office.
“I think I am the best candidate because I am someone with an understanding of the office from top to bottom. I am a really hard worker and I am committed to serving the public and being fair to everyone,” Ulmer said.
Boeschen, who touts 40 years of combined experience in banking and real estate appraisal, served as Pettis County Assessor from 2000 to 2004.
She said her thorough understanding of the software system shared by the assessor and collector, and installed during her term as assessor — will mean a much shorter period of time for her to “get up to speed on how the office functions.”
“My four years as assessor are the most valuable four years I could have had and the people would benefit from that,” Boeschen said.
Boeschen said she has some concerns about how taxing entities like smaller municipalities and fire, ambulance, and library districts would be affected by going to multiple tax payments a year.
“I have discussed it with other county collector offices and several offer this option. The system we have now is capable of handling that, but we have to look closely at what the cost would be and if it is feasible and cost-productive for the taxpayers,” Boeschen said.
Boeschen also noted that a change in the number of payments taxpayers can make must first be approved by the Pettis County Commission before taking affect.
Boeschen, owner of the appraisal firm Boeschen and Associates since 1998, said she has an eye for details and loves to work with finance and believes her professional experience will be helpful if elected.
“The county is facing a tight budget and that means efficiency and accountability in the collector’s office is more important than ever,” Boeschen said.
Pettis County Presiding Commissioner
Democrat Brian Egbert and Republican John Meehan are both looking to bring their own style to the Pettis County Presiding Commissioner’s race.
Egbert, a Pettis County Sheriff’s deputy, and Meehan, a retired banker and Sedalia School District 200 board member, are looking to replace incumbent Republican Rusty Kahrs, who is not seeking re-election. As the county’s budget officer, both men tout their business experience as key qualifications for office.
Though tax revenues have improved from 2009 numbers, the incoming presiding commissioner still must oversee a tight budget situation. The recession and the resulting drop in tax revenues in 2009 prompted 16 percent across-the-board cuts for all county offices.
From his position at the sheriff’s office, Egbert has seen the effects of cuts. A reduction in staff has meant fewer patrols in the county and, Egbert says, drug traffic has increased as a result; he also said senior officers have been pulled from investigations to cover some patrol duties. The staff reductions have “put a lot of pressure” on remaining dispatchers and, Egbert said, the work load on individual deputies has doubled.
“Our deputy presence is not out there in the county,” Egbert said.
However, Egbert said, “it could take some time to get everyone’s budget back to where it was.”
“I want people to understand I am not doing this just to serve deputies. I want to take care of the county as a whole and make sure funds are shifted where they need to go,” he said.
Egbert said he was committed to working with other county officials to help determine budget priorities and he believes his background as a construction worker and landscaping company owner have given him the skills to help guide large-scale county projects and make sure bid proposals on county projects make economic sense and “are the best deal for taxpayers.”
Meehan stresses the need for “cooperation and collaboration” as a means to move the county forward and said he was dedicated to working with other officials.
Meehan said he has spent time during the campaign visiting with other office holders to find out what they expect from a commissioner.
“One of the key things that came from them is that it is the responsibility of the presiding commissioner to prepare a balanced and fair budget. That tells me the key skill set for that position is a finance background,” Meehan said.
Meehan has a combined 30 years of banking and finance experience, including almost 27 years with Third National Bank in Sedalia.
He said his time on the school board as well as his involvement with a variety of community organizations have “given me the tools to be able to create a cooperative spirit.”
“I have a tremendous amount of comfort in the ability of all of the quality people serving the county to help develop a plan for Pettis County,” Meehan said.
Pettis County Clerk
Voters have a choice Nov. 2 between experience and new blood in the Pettis County Clerk race.
Incumbent Democrat Pam Doane, first appointed to the office by Gov. Mel Carnahan in 1993, faces a challenge from Republican Nick La Strada, a gym manager and founder of the Pettis County Young Republicans.
The clerk acts as the chief election official in the county, serves as secretary to the county commission and is responsible for paying county bills.
Doane has been with the clerk’s office since 1983 and believes “my experience and dependability” are the main reasons voters should return her to office.
“I am a hard worker. I stay until the job is done and make sure it is done right,” Doane said.
Doane has faced criticism over issues that arose during the August primary election, including a mix up in poll supplies that left a polling place without necessary paper ballots for part of the day — a mistake that may have affected the outcome of a Republican committee person race.
The candidates in the race chose not to contest the election results, but the situation led to Pettis County Republican Committee Chairwoman Carla Young to file a complaint with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office.
Doane said she has created a new supply checklist that will be reviewed and signed-off on by both Republican and Democratic election supervisors at each polling place.
“Everyone that wanted to could still vote,” Doane said.
La Strada, who has served as co-manager for his family’s frame shop for 10 years and as business manager at Total Fitness for the last four years, said he did not want to engage in personal attacks in his campaign, but admitted he believes issues in the clerk’s office are of concern.
“Everybody knows what the issues there are. What I want people to know is that I have the ability, the energy and the determination to improve the office,” La Strada said.
La Strada said he would like to see the office “get back to the grassroots” and would push for an increased number of voter registration drives and voter education opportunities to “make sure people understand the process and know that their votes count.”
Doane said she held registration drives in the past and works closely with groups like the League of Women Voters to help organize events. She said the office still engages in voter outreach, especially reaching out to new voters in high school and college.
Doane said she has seen many changes in the office — from paper ballots to computer touch-screen voting machines — and will work, if re-elected, to try and secure grant funding to convert the county’s voter rolls to an electronic format.
Doane said the change will be necessary if the Missouri General Assembly goes to a “no-excuse” absentee or early voting format.
La Strada said that new technology is important but noted that older voters are not always comfortable with newer technology.
“We need to make sure elections are accessible to everyone,” La Strada said.
Pettis County Recorder of Deeds
Pettis County Recorder of Deeds Janet Kresse faces a challenge from school bookkeeper Barbara Clevenger in her bid for a fourth term of office in the Nov. 2 general election.
Kresse, a Democrat, has been with the recorder’s office since 1978 and was chief deputy from 1986 until 1998, when she was elected to office.
Republican Clevenger has been bookkeeper for the Sweet Springs R-7 School District for seven years, and spent 22 years as marketing director for MCH Strategic Data, a Sweet Springs database and mailing list firm.
The recorder is responsible for volumes of information that date back to 1833 and include land transfer documents, marriage licenses and military discharge papers in the county.
Kresse said she is “proud of the work we have done” while in the recorder’s office, noting she has overseen technology transitions as the office moved from hand-copied documents to microfilm and eventually to digitally scanned documents.
Kresse said the office is a revenue generator for the county, with funds raised through fees on documents and subscriptions paid by real estate agents and other businesses to access records.
“We would like to get some of those documents out to the public, especially the genealogy records,” Kresse said. “We were doing a lot of back-scanning of older documents, but our budget went from $138,000 to $94,000 and the chief deputy went to 35 hours a week, so we had to scale some of that back.”
Kresse said she will continue to push for technology upgrades for the office, but says any changes depend on the budget.
Clevenger, who said she is running to “give voters an alternative,” said getting documents into a searchable online database would be a key change if she is elected.
“I would like to see the county have a bigger web presence with more documents available,” Clevenger said.
She said she did not know the cost for the change, but believes she and other office workers could manage scanning older documents while also processing day-to-day business.
“I’m sure it can be a slow process, but you just have to work at it all the time,” Clevenger said.
She said she has always been interested in politics and was motivated to run because she “understands no one has challenged the incumbent in a number of years.”