The Athens NEWS recommends that local voters re-elect Jill Thompson as Athens County auditor and retain Ric Wasserman as county treasurer in the Nov. 6 election. In both races, the reasoning is the same: There’s no reason to replace an office-holder if he or she is already performing a good job.
This rationale applies even though in these two races, the opponent in each case also is experienced in the tasks of that office, and likely would do well, too.
In the county auditor race, Thompson, auditor for the past 18 years, faces a challenge from Dave Owen, who formerly served as chief deputy auditor under Thompson. Thompson is the sole Republican office-holder in Athens County, while Owen is a Democrat.
Thompson is actively involved in statewide county officeholder groups, and has been moving toward computerization of county records her office deals with. A new website for the county Auditor’s office recently went online. She puts a high priority on providing understandable information to the public, which citizens can access from their home computers or smartphones.
Owen, who probably is not exaggerating in saying he has worked every job in the county Auditor’s office, could step in and do the job without much trouble if he got elected to the office. But again, unless the incumbent is failing to perform the job competently or effectively, there’s no compelling reason to replace her.
And without any noticeable political or ideological differences between the two candidates, notwithstanding their different parties, one really can’t use that as fair justification for removing an incumbent.
IN THE COUNTY TREASURER’S race, Ric Wasserman, a local bar owner/businessman, was appointed to the office this past spring to replace incumbent Bill Bias, who was retiring. The winner of the Nov. 6 election will complete Bias’ unexpired term.
Since taking office, Wasserman, a Democrat, has taken steps to make the Treasurer’s office aggressive in collecting delinquent taxes, and has started a community investment program that provides low-cost financing for projects in Athens County’s villages and townships.
Perhaps most notably, Wasserman has been instrumental in putting a new Athens County Land Bank to work. As county treasurer, he serves on the Land Bank board.
Under the Land Bank program, the county identifies blighted, non-productive or non-revenue-producing homes, trailers and other structures, forecloses upon them, and then transfers ownership to the Land Bank. Once that ownership transfer has taken place, the buildings can be torn down and the property returned to a productive, tax-paying status. In return, any tax delinquency on the property is forgiven.
Supporters, including Wasserman, argue that in Athens County, which has hundreds of such structures rotting on their foundations, the Land Bank is a creative and efficient way of gradually turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse. We agree.
Wasserman’s opponent, former Athens City Council member and former city Auditor Gary Van Meter, has been critical of how Athens County set up and operates its Land Bank. But his criticism seems superficial and opportunistic.
Van Meter, a Republican, on the other hand, boasts a wealth of experience directly related to the work he’d do as Athens County treasurer. That experience was gleaned in both public and commercial roles during his career, as well as his time working in finance and accounting while in the U.S. Army.
Notwithstanding those pluses for Van Meter, we believe that Wasserman is doing a stellar job as county treasurer, appreciate his work on the Land Bank, and see no reason to replace him.
We urge our readers to vote for Jill Thompson as Athens County auditor and Ric Wasserman as Athens County treasurer in the Nov. 6 General Election.