VALPARAISO — Apparently about the only job with better job security than Supreme Court justice is that of Valparaiso Clerk-Treasurer.
After 37 years in office, current Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Swihart did not seek re-election this year. Vying to take her place are Democrat Erin Stojic and Republican Holly Taylor. Both currently work as deputy clerk-treasurers: Stojic for the town of Highland and Taylor under Swihart in Valparaiso.
Stojic, 33, has a masters in public affairs and public management from Indiana University Northwest and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Valparaiso University. Her husband Vaso is a horticulturist with the Valparaiso Parks Department.
Taylor, 37, has more than 16 years of financial experience, including seven years working with Swihart after working as a teller and personal banker at First National Bank and also as bookkeeper for Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso. Her husband Ryan is a jail captain at the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. They have two children.
Both candidates stressed the need for transparency in the clerk-treasurer’s office so the public has easy access to records and information about the city’s finances.
“I would like to see a greater degree of transparency in our budget preparation and presentation," Stojic said. "It would be an expectation of my office that all funds that require appropriations to spend would be budgeted, published and approved in the year prior so taxpayers can easily research the entire budget on Indiana’s financial gateway website."
Stojic said she believes the city's transparency portal can be made "more user-friendly and straightforward so citizens understand what they are looking at.”
“Providing information is one piece of transparency. We must also offer explanation," Stojic said. "It is essential that we use the technology and programming available to streamline all city departments to allow quick and easy reporting of budgets and spending.”
Taylor said she has witnessed how well the clerk-treasurer’s office runs over the last seven years and would keep that going if elected.
“We will continue to be transparent as we have done over many, many years,” Taylor said. “We have three different areas where citizens can access information: our city website the Indiana Gateway website and the OpenGov financial portal, all of which we update on a regular basis."
Taylor said she plans to continue Swihart's "open door policy."
“Citizens also are encouraged to visit us at city hall if they are looking for something and need assistance, or they can call," Taylor said. "If we don’t know the answer right away, we do our research and get back to the person quickly."
Stojic said she would also focus on working with the mayor and the council to establish a cash reserve policy for each of the operational funds, which would bolster the cash flow throughout the year and reduce the need for loans between funds. Lastly, she would like to make the city more inclusive in decision making.
“As the keeper of records and minutes from the council meetings, the clerk-treasurer is in a position to promote transparency in the local government. If elected, I promise to put my efforts into doing all I can to make Valparaiso more transparent and inclusive of all residents,” Stojic said.
Taylor touted her familiarity with the department’s operation saying, “I know how this office works, I know all the software we use and it would be a smooth transition into the new year. There would be no learning curve for me to step into that role.”