The crowded field for White Township tax collector dominated the Indiana County Republican Committee’s spring candidates’ event at the Indian Springs Golf and Country Club Thursday night.
There are nine men and women vying for the Republican nomination for the seat, which John M. O’Keefe is giving up after 24 years. His term ends Dec. 31.
“I admire anyone who’s willing to step over that line (into politics). To get their nose bloody, to be part of the public discourse, is very honorable,” state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, told them. “If nothing else, enjoy the experience.”
And state Rep. David Reed, R-Indiana, said the local offices are the most important.
“Most aspects of everyday life are impacted at the local level,” he said.
He told the candidates to enjoy the experience, but warned that politics can become much more personal when it’s your name on the yard sign.
“Every single person would benefit by putting their name on a ballot just one time,” he said. “You’ll get to know a whole other part of Indiana County.”
The nine candidates for tax collector all stressed the importance of maintaining regular office hours.
Brad Shields, a county detective and former station commander for the state police in Indiana, promised to make the job his “sole and exclusive” focus in order to be available to taxpayers and to area businesses who need to reach the tax collector.
Wayne Murdick, who is retired, said he was looking for a job after becoming a “victim of the Obama economy,” and said he has time and experience.
“I certainly have the free time to devote to it,” he said.
Denise Clawson stressed her experience in banking. She currently manages Marion Center Bank’s new headquarters on Indian Springs Road, and said she is experienced dealing with people and with finances.
“I pledge to always be available,” she said.
Jeff Mack has a tax preparation business and is a certified public accountant. He said his firm pushed new technology for its clients, providing digital records for easy access, and promised that same kind of service for the taxpayers if elected.
Mark Milner runs a painting and wall-covering business, and said the experiences he garnered as one of 11 children whose mother was paralyzed when he was just 12 years old shaped him and his priorities.
He said he learned how to work together to reach common goals and to respect people. He promised to apply the same sincerity, honesty and organization to the job of tax collector as he does to his own business.
Donna K. Cupp has served as county auditor since she was appointed after Clair Pierce passed away while in office in 2011. She has run her own Avon business for 26 years, and through that learned how to organize finances and use programs like Excel, she said.
Tom Campisano has experience both in banking and managing, and mostly recently became a deputy sheriff in the county. He said he decided to run to “give back” to the county, that he would keep an office with evening hours for working families, and that he would provide safety training as well with tips about how to avoid becoming a victim of a crime.
Donna Cousins said she worked for 29 years with the Department of Agriculture, where she helped farmers procure loans.
“I know the importance of keeping good records,” she said. “I will keep good records, I am an honest person, and I will do my best and get receipts out to people as soon as they pay their taxes.
Ken Marcoaldi introduced himself as the “feed man” from Indiana Feed and Supply, and said he has been involved in the business’ finances and taxes since he filled out tax forms with his mother as a child.
Three women running unopposed for the Republican nomination to county offices also spoke briefly. Patty Streams-Warman is seeking a sixth term as the county’s register and recorder of deeds. She said the job has changed over the past 20 years, but that her biggest accomplishment was working with the county commissioners and the chamber of commerce to establish a discount card program for county veterans.
“I’m so proud to be able to offer something back to the people who gave so much to Indiana County,” she said.
Helen Clark, currently a county auditor, is running for county treasurer. “I’m proud to be a county auditor, and I want to take the next step and be your county treasurer,” she said.
And Louise Hildebrand is running again for a position as jury commissioner, and took a minute to thank people willing to serve on juries.
“I do appreciate you people when you’re called to come in and serve,” she said.