(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)
Incumbent Valz in tight race against Trina Cox…
The race for Stevens County Treasurer is interesting in that the position of treasurer probably doesn’t have the hot button topics that cause people to share Facebook memes. It’s an important part of county government, none-the-less.
Leslie Valz was chosen as Stevens County Treasurer by commissioners two years ago and is now running for re-election against challenger Trina R. Cox. Both are Republicans.
What made you want to get into the position in the first place?
I have worked for Stevens County Government in the past and found it to be a very engaging position. I was contacted by a few of the elected officials who encouraged me to interview for the appointment process, which would replace our past county treasurer, Sue Harnasch, since she was vacating the office of county treasurer in the middle of her term. I was unanimously appointed to this position by the three county commissioners and went on to win the election with 95% of the vote later that year. I have been honored to serve as your county treasurer, during turbulent times in our economy and political landscape. I hold a vision for this office of accountability to the taxpayers and taxing districts to assist with effectively managing funds, while not losing touch with our local taxpayers’ needs. I have created an office atmosphere that loves to serve.
Can you describe what the job entails?
My office issues over 43,000 tax bills every year. This in turn means that we send bills in excess of $40 million in taxes due each year. This is done with a staff of only five individuals and myself. We also process over $158 million in receipts from local taxing districts, 15 school districts and 13 fire districts as well as many other departments. This office is responsible for foreclosing on property with three years of unpaid taxes owned. Throughout that process, we work with the property owners to retain this property via exemptions and payment plans. While also processing all property segregations, supplementations, exemptions and boundary line adjustments that affect the amount of taxes that an individual would pay. These are all processed through my office and a revised bill or refund is sent to the taxpayer.
The Stevens County treasurer is also responsible for an investment portfolio that is in excess of $50 million. My position requires extensive laddering of investments and a deep understanding of the market to keep necessary funds liquid and working at all times for the county’s best interest.
My job also requires an extensive partnership with the County Auditor to complete the annual budget for approval. I also work closely with the state and county auditor to complete our annual review for the county.
Are there topics or issues that you feel are important to this campaign season?
Local government this campaign season is vital to the local economic development in years to come. We are a team of elected officials who also live and love this area. We want to see growth in our economic sectors in Stevens County. As your county treasurer, it is vital that I keep up to date with legislation that may affect your taxes. That is your money and it is my job to ensure that it is being properly receipted, recorded then invested or remitted to the correct taxing agency. We collectively utilize these funds for schools, roads, police, fire suppression and other county needs.
What makes you the best choice on the ballot?
The level of accounting required for this position necessitates extreme precision, working within advanced accounting system set up for local governmental county level accounting. The systems are highly technical, and I have advanced training within the necessary expertise level to maintain the millions of dollars that flow through our office annually. I have trained my team to analyze the data and search for errors or potential problems to troubleshoot. Reporting and visibility to our taxing districts and taxpayers is vital so that the county understands its financial well-being. I have many years of working within both local government and the private sector to bring together ideas and collaborate within offices to save taxpayer funds.
I have created lasting partnerships with our schools, fire and other elected officials and departments that affect your taxes. I have partnered with our legislators and as a result, we are represented in Olympia and our concerns about rising taxes are heard.
Anything else that you would like to add?
A county’s treasurer is a very specialized position. There are only 38 other county treasurers in the state of Washington and a lot of ideas flow back and forth. We have similar concerns but very different geographic and economic situations. I have been endorsed by our surrounding treasurers in Pend Oreille and Ferry counties, as well as treasurers in Yakima and Walla Walla counties. In Eastern Washington, our finances and treasury services are vastly different than at the state or federal level. We have forestry land, agricultural land, residential land and every variation that can exist in between.
These areas of our county at any given moment – might be staffed with a totally volunteer fire department, a reserve police officer or deputy and a volunteer EMT. It is my job as an elected official to ensure that the funds that we have going to programs that service property owners and taxpayers are collected through efficient means and put back to work for the county and the programs that we are proud to help fund.
What made you want to get involved in the community and run for treasurer?
I am a lifelong resident of Stevens County and a graduate of Colville High School. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Washington University in Business Administration with major areas of study in Management, Economics and Finance. I have worked in the accounting/fiscal field since graduation. I have been involved in community activities for years through the fairs, events and youth programs. I absolutely love this county and want to give back where I can. I have the experience and knowledge necessary to be your next treasurer.
Can you describe what you would bring to the job; would there be any changes you would want to make or anything like that?
I would bring 26 years of experience working with cash handling, auditors, accounts payable and receivable and payroll. I have worked with the Stevens County Budgeting, Accounting and Reporting System (BARS). I would give competent and knowledgeable customer service. I would make sure that funds were handled appropriately and work in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
Are there any topics or issues you feel are important for this campaign season?
I feel it is extremely important to be honest and straightforward with voters. I want voters to be informed and to make sure to get their ballots returned.
What makes you the best choice on the ballot?
Stevens County is where I live, raised my family and support our community. I want to do the very best for the people who live here. I have the knowledge and experience needed to lead the Treasurer’s Office and hope for your support.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I feel my communication style allows me to bolster good relationships that lead to positive outcomes. I’m not afraid to ask questions and work to get answers. I am organized, detailed, responsible and dependable and would appreciate your vote.