Decision 2016 - Garms, Scott vying for auditor’s job

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Jennifer Garms

Deborah Scott

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Over the next several weeks, the Register will feature candidates in key county and state government races. The articles, which will appear in Q/A format, will be compiled using the exact answers given by the candidates to our questions. Our first article looks at the race for Clayton County Auditor.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, there’s not an incumbent running for this office. Dennis Freitag, who held the job for 36 years, retired this summer. Here’s a look at Jennifer Garms (D) and Deborah Scott (R), the two candidates for the post.

Jennifer Garms

Q. Tell our readers about you (where you were raised, where you went to school, where you live, previous careers/jobs, family, and anything else you’d like to share.

A. I was born and raised just outside Algona. While attending Bishop Garrigan High School, I worked at Hy-Vee spending most of my time as an Assistant Manager or Customer Service Representative. I continued working at Hy-Vee, in addition to full class loads and volunteering, while attending the University of Northern Iowa. I majored in accounting and took business courses 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 of Science 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. As a GIS Specialist, I led conference calls, managed project timelines, prepared training manuals, dealt with legal descriptions, and created and maintained map layers.

I had met Eli in 2002 while taking a Transportation Geography course, and in August 2007, we were married. We moved to Elkader and I started working as a Deputy Auditor for Clayton County that same month.  

I am a community volunteer and serve on the Elkader Opera House Board and the Main Street Elkader Promotion Committee. I have a variety of different hobbies including: hunting, fishing, reading, quilting, gardening, photography, bowling, and solving word and jigsaw puzzles. 

Q. What aspects of your previous work experience qualify you for the job of Clayton County Auditor?

A. I currently serve as a Deputy Auditor performing many of the Auditor’s duties. I have shown that I can multi-task and prioritize my workload to ensure that deadlines and customer requests are met.  

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 TIF reconciliations, financial reporting of revenues and expenditures, debt reporting, account creation, and budget preparation and publication. 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.

Q. Leadership in the auditor’s office is changing for the first time in nearly four decades. What will you do to ensure a seamless and effective transition?

A. The office is currently working on items to make a transition as seamless and effective as possible. As an office, we communicate as to what needs to be completed and plan out how to accomplish this. We communicate openly and are reviewing the manual set forth by the Iowa State Association of County Auditors to ensure that everything that needs to be done is completed in a timely manner. We are working to develop a filing system that will help the office to easily reference and obtain requested materials. I would like to take time to review the current policies and speak with departments as to where they are now and what changes they would like to see to help them run their department more effectively. If elected, my position as Deputy Auditor will be vacant. I would need to consult with staff to see if they are interested in switching some of their current duties prior to advertising for a replacement.

Q. What are the top two issues facing the auditor’s office in the next four years and how would you address them

A. The top two issues facing the office are financial responsibility and transparency. I plan to promote fiscal integrity and make a calendar that states deadlines that are to be met. I would like to increase transparency by making information (budgets, procedural updates, etc.) more accessible and available in a timely manner. I am currently part of a website committee to make a new county website that should make accessing this information much more user friendly.

Q. Why should the people of Clayton County vote for you?

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. I have experience within the office and I have the dependability, organization, and work ethic to make the office move forward. 

Q. Anything else you’d like to add? (Please limit your response here to 100 words or less.)

A. 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. I can be reached by email at jenmgarms@gmail.com or you may like my Facebook page (garmsforauditor) which has more information about who I am and what plans I have to improve the Auditor’s Office.

Deborah Scott

Q. Tell our readers about you (where you were raised, where you went to school, where you live, previous careers/jobs, family, and anything else you’d like to share.

A. I grew up in a military family and lived in many locations around the US. This allowed me to experience different cultures, customs and learning experiences. I graduated in 1979 from O. Perry Walker High School, New Orleans, LA. In 1986, I received my Bachelor’s Degree at Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA in General Studies with minors in Animal Science and Military Science. I went into the Army Reserve starting in New Orleans and managed $15 million worth of equipment. For the next 10 years, I was in three different Army Reserve units. After going Active Duty, I was assigned to a unit in Florida during 9/11. The unit was mobilized and I was assigned to monitor and pay 20 different hotel contracts and monitor over 400 credit cards for Service members stationed around the United States. I also received my Master’s Degree in Organizational Management in 2003. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast I was working for NORAD/USNORTHCOM. I identified a US airport for 20 international flights to land to deliver over 200 tons of supplies, clothes, and food. My final assignment was at the Pentagon G3 (Plans, Training and Operations) section. I managed up to $58 million budget, provided daily updates to the senior leadership and a weekly update to the Army G3 General staff. I assisted with the development and distribution of a budget program for Army units worldwide.

Q. What aspects of your previous work experience qualify you for the job of Clayton County Auditor? 

A. I have managed up to $58 million budget, developed and distributed a budget program, monitored over 20 contracts and 400 credit cards, and managed $15 million worth of equipment. I am currently the Secretary/Treasurer of Cemetery Board, Adjutant of local American Legion chapter, Church Trustee, Church Council Moderator, Church Religious Education member. 

Q.  Leadership in the auditor’s office is changing for the first time in nearly four decades. What will you do to ensure a seamless and effective transition?

A. I would sit down with the staff to discuss procedures, processes and responsibilities currently in use. After review, I would realign responsibilities, update procedures and processes, if needed.      

Q. What are the top two issues facing the auditor’s office in the next four years and how would you address them.

A. Budget management – Learn the budget program within the office and cross train all personnel to work the program. This will allow to office to continue to function in an efficient manner.

Timely completion of reports – Ensure all reports are completed, reviewed and filed on time.

Q. Why should the people of Clayton County vote for you?  

A. Honesty, integrity and improving leadership skills.  I feel the people of Clayton County deserve strong leadership from the auditor’s office.  That leadership has been lacking and I would hope to gather support for a bigger and better Clayton County.  This County deserves our greatest effort. 

Q. Anything else you’d like to add? (Please limit your response here to 100 words or less.)

A. My roots are in McGregor and the local area.  My grandfather was a businessman in McGregor, my grandmother was a nurse at the McGregor Hospital. My mother was born and raised in McGregor and my parents later owned and operated a Bed and Breakfast. I am pleased I retired to McGregor as I enjoy the area and look forward to serving the people of Clayton County.

 
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