Account of LWV Forum — 10/13

Candidates for Jefferson Co. races take part in forum

LWV Forum-101316Journal News, October 13 2016: CHARLES TOWN — A Thursday night forum hosted by the Jefferson County League of Women Voters featured candidates vying for assessor, circuit clerk and county clerk, and each of the candidates spoke about issues concerning the county and highlighted their specific qualities for the positions.

ASSESSOR, 4-year term

¯ Republican candidate Eva Alexander was not able to attend the forum, but a statement provided was read by Republican circuit clerk candidate Ben Svendsen.

“We are in a spiraling downward slide. Only change of our elected officials will bring us out of these depths. I am a part of this change,” Alexander’s statement read. “I want all citizens to be assessed correctly and pay their fair share but not more than what they should be taxed. I will modernize the assessor’s office, promote a more user-friendly atmosphere (and) I will make sure that we follow all provisions that are up-to-date and are standard, state-approved.”

¯ Democratic incumbent candidate Angie Banks, who has 22 years of experience–first as a deputy clerk in the assessor’s office and then as assessor, said she hopes to continue serving the public, if elected, and wants the office to be filled with kindness, fairness and efficiency.

“Once I became assessor, I did make some changes. I decided to go with pre-printed forms, I launched a website, we now have online filing, GIS mapping and I made my office more transparent,” Banks said. “I (also) engage my staff in more training. … The assessor’s job is a full-time job, … and our office is very important.”

CIRCUIT CLERK, 6-year term

¯ Democratic incumbent candidate Laura Storm, who has worked in the circuit clerk’s office for 15 years, with eight of those years being circuit clerk, said she has modernized the office and hopes to continue bringing the best service as well as technology if re-elected.

Storm said her job as circuit clerk is to provide service to the 200-300 people who come through her office per month and empower them with the knowledge they need, as customer service is the biggest part of the job. Storm also said creating a more efficient office is crucial to her job description, as well as maintaining current efficiencies.

“Since 2008, I have returned over $205,800 back to the county commission that I did not need within my budget. I, last year, returned $85,000 because, through efficiency, we were able to do without one employee who retired. I did not refill that position, so we were able to give that money back to the county,” Storm said. “Then, (the county commission) asked for even more (money). Not a problem. We decreased our budget from last year to this year by $88,000. That’s efficiency for you.”

¯ Republican candidate Ben Svendsen, who has experience as a legislative aide and has worked with county government in the past, said he hopes to make the circuit clerk’s office more transparent, more efficient and provide the best possible customer service, if elected.

Svendsen said customer service is the most important aspect of the circuit clerk’s office, and he said his past experience as a legislative aide and with constituent relations will allow him to provide the best customer service and make sure the office is the most transparent it can possibly be.

“One of the concerns that was raised to me by several of my friends is that there’s not enough transparency right now, especially in respect to the budget. A budget document is the best way to identify priorities of a governmental department organization,” Svendsen said. “I think when the public and when the county commission has easier access to that kind of information, there’s more faith that money isn’t being misspent. When you have more eyes on something, there’s more opportunity to get feedback.”

COUNTY CLERK, 6-year term

¯ Republican candidate Jackie Shadle was not able to attend the forum.

¯ Democratic candidate Herb Snyder, who has spent over 20 years in the West Virginia Legislature as a senator and , said he has had a desire for public service his entire life and hopes to continue giving back to the community, if elected.

One aspect of the county clerk’s position that Snyder said is a key aspect is making sure that people are voting and maintaining an interest in doing so.

“I will do everything, probably starting in high schools, to get people interested in the (voting) process. It’s clearly easy now, West Virginia has done one really good thing in voter law this last session, and that’s automatic voter registration through the DMV, so it’s easier to get registered now,” Snyder said. “The big, heavy, high hill to climb is getting people interested. I think that’s driven … by all the negativity in today’s politics and election cycle. … I’m going to rely heavily on the people who have been on the ground on how we can promote voting, and I want to do that.”

Oct. 18 is the last day to register to vote in the general election. Early voting will begin Oct. 26 and end Nov. 5.

The general election is Nov. 8.

Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/emilykdaniels.

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