MEET THE CANDIDATES

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Elizabeth Jaster

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

In the weeks leading up to the June 7 primaries, the Register will publish of the candidates in contested races. This week, our profile looks at the two Democrats entered in the Clayton County Auditor’s race. One of the two women—either Jennifer Garms or Elizabeth Jaster—will face Republican Deborah Scott, who will be profiled after the primary election.

Our article begins with biographical sketches provided by the candidates followed by a question-answer interview.

Jennifer Garms

I was born and raised in Algona and attended the University of Northern Iowa.  I majored in accounting and took business classes for over two years before switching majors to Geography.  I enjoyed the variety geography had to offer, but was especially interested in mapping and demographics.  In 2004, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Geography and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Cartography.  After graduation, I moved to Minnesota and worked at GeoComm performing emergency mapping services for cities and counties across the nation.  In August 2007, Eli and I were married and moved to Elkader. I started working as a Deputy Auditor for Clayton County that same month. 

My main responsibility is elections, where as a Certified Iowa State Election Administrator, I maintain voter records, prepare ballots, program equipment, train precinct election officials, monitor absentee and election day voting procedures, and compile election results. 

I also complete two annual processes for the county including the valuation report and preparing property taxes for certification.  For these processes, I compile and/or verify utilities, credits, rollbacks, tax rates, budget amounts, and make adjustments as needed by property changes.

GIS mapping is another responsibility of mine.  I handle the data requests from outside entities including file creation and information generated by utilizing map data.  In my time at the county, I have added or maintained map data including: tax increment financing (TIF) districts, voting precincts, polling places, and land assets among others. 

In recent months, I have taken on many more responsibilities including claim for payment review, TIF reconciliations, financial reporting of revenues and expenditures, account creation, budget preparation/filing for townships and the county. While in the middle of a conversion to a new financial software package, I needed to research how the budget process was completed in the old system and see what worked best to complete the county budget process in a timely manner on the new system.

Some other responsibilities include: maintaining articles and room reservations on the county website, maintaining the Board of Supervisors agenda and minute book, compiling the county newsletter, fixed asset inventory, passports, notary service, scanning old records, and helping out others when a second eye or hand is needed.

 What other elected positions (if any) have you held?

I am currently Co-Chair of the Main Street Elkader Promotion Committee and Vice President of the Elkader Opera House Board.

Why did you decide to run?

I am running for Clayton County Auditor because I enjoy the diversity of duties the job has to offer and I believe I can serve the public in a pleasant, impartial, and efficient manner.

What are the biggest challenges facing the office? How do you plan to address these issues?

Some challenges facing the office include financial responsibility and communication.  I plan to increase financial transparency and promote fiscal integrity.  I think the lines of communication will open up at all levels by putting in time and effort building relationships.

 If elected, what do you hope to achieve during your term?

In addition to addressing the challenges the office faces, I would like to increase cross training efforts, research technological advances for the voting process, and collaborate with departments and other counties to find and develop best practices for the auditor’s processes.

How will you reach out to area residents?

By increasing transparency, information (budgets, procedural updates, etc.) will be more accessible and available in a timely manner.  I am willing to make myself available outside office hours to help with any issues or concerns that may arise.  I believe in an open door policy and welcome phone calls, emails, and office visits.

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make?

I am looking forward to bringing back the dependability, organization, and integrity that the public associates with an auditor’s office.

Elizabeth Jaster

I am married to my high school sweetheart Doug and we currently reside in Garber. We have 3 children: Calisa (17), Dalton (16) and Kalie (14) all whom attend Ed-Co High School. I am a life long Clayton County resident and graduated in 1996 from Central High School. I hold an Associates Degree in Accounting, a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, a Bachelors Degree in Hospitality and Tourism and a Masters Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Health and Human Services. I currently work as the City Administrator for the City of Strawberry Point. I have held this position since 2013 and was previously the Deputy City Clerk for the City. I have a work background in public administration, tourism, corporate accounting and customer service. In my free time I love touring the countryside with my husband on our motorcycle, spending time boating with the family or reading. 

What other elected positions (if any) have you held? 

I currently am an elected Council member for the City of Garber. Although not elected positions, I also serve as the Clayton County Conservation Board Chair, as Garber Fire Department Secretary/Treasurer and on the Strawberry Point Development Fund Board as Secretary/Treasurer. 

Why did you decide to run?

I enjoy meeting new people, helping citizens resolve issues and being involved in my local communities. I decided to run for Clayton County Auditor because I believe there is a current void in accountability and transparency with our citizens. I believe the County needs to encourage more public participation in meetings, committees, budget workshops and so forth. I want the citizens to know they truly do have a voice and I will help where and when I can. Listen to the citizens, inform the citizens on why you are taking certain actions, open up that transparency and accountability and you will find that they will respect and trust you and your decisions.

What are the biggest challenges facing the office? How do you plan to address these issues?

I think the biggest challenge facing the County is the budget. Big county, small budget. I will address this by reviewing the revenues and expenditures, looking for any way the County can save tax dollars by spending in a more efficient and effective manner while at the same time researching different avenues for revenues. I also think the level of communication and lack of trust in elected officials is a challenge this County faces right now. By having an open door policy, listening to citizen concerns, researching and responding to those concerns, the level of trust will increase. 

If elected, what do you hope to achieve during your term?

If elected as Clayton County Auditor, I plan to achieve an increased level of communication among citizens and the Auditors office (hopefully that also filters through the other offices as well), implement policies and procedures that will stop any identified wasteful spending, increase alternate forms of revenue such as grant funds, always timely file reports, budgets and provide timely communication with townships, cities, schools and other agencies, improve relationships throughout the county departments and with other organizations we must work with and make sure county meetings and actions are completely transparent to the public. 

How will you reach out to area residents?

I am willing to sit in on or speak at any events area residents may have. I would love to find out what citizen concerns are, so I can try to help resolve them. I also think putting a write up in newspapers or on the county website to explain what the department has been working on, any current issues, etc would help in improving communication with the residents. I am available by phone (563) 380-7264 if anyone wants to chat with me or also by email jasterforauditor@gmail.com if that is an easier way for people to reach out. 

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make?

I believe my education, experience and personality makes me the best Clayton County Auditor candidate.

In our May 18 and May 25 issues, we will profile the six candidates vying for the single opening on the Clayton County Board of Supervisors.

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