Candidates for treasurer, recorder and attorney speak at forum

The dialog was honest, cordial and informative at a forum for county candidates hosted by the Rotary Club of Jefferson Oct. 11.

All county candidates were present: incumbent treasurer Donna Lawson and challenger Katlynn Gannon Mechaelsen; incumbent supervisors Dawn Rudolph and Tom Contner and challengers Patti Naylor and Melissa Frederick; incumbent recorder Marcia Tasler, who is unopposed; and assistant county attorney Thomas Laehn, who is running unopposed for the county attorney position.Rotarian Rick Morain moderated the forum.

The treasurer candidates spoke first of those races with opposition.

Donna Lawson

Donna Lawson, a Democrat, is running for her ninth 4-year term. She explained the primary role of the treasurer’s office is to collect taxes, and that she and her staff often must educate the public about where their taxes go. She is proud of her effort to bring the driver’s license station to the county and thanked the Farm Bureau, Rotary and Kiwanis for helping with a letter writing campaign to get that done.

Katlynn Gannon Mechaelsen, a Republican, graduated from East Greene High School in 2011. She earned bachelors degrees in accounting and business administration from AIB College of Business in Des Moines. She now works for an accounting firm, overseeing all transactions, cash flow, payroll and budgets for eight clients. She said all her clients are older than she, but they mutually respect each other.

She and her husband Marcus moved back to Greene County six months ago. “We think this is a community we want to raise our children in. I really want to make a difference,” she said.

Katlynn Gannon Mechaelsen

She said she knows there would be a learning curve, but “I’ll work my butt off for you.”
She named three priorities: 1) learn the driver’s license station and keep it open every day; 2) learn to do every job in the treasurer’s office to be able to fill in for absent employees; and 3) improve use of technology in the office.

To a question about what she would change in the office, Michaelsen answered that cross-training would allow two sets of eyes to see every document, and again mentioned learning all the tasks of the driver’s license station.

Lawson was asked about her vision for moving the treasurer’s office forward. She said much of her office is controlled by the Code of Iowa. The staff is doing as much as it can with the time available and the parameters set by Code.

Mechaelsen said she’d go a different direction with technology, and named running the annual tax sale online, and setting up bank payment of real estate taxes online.

Lawson responded that the treasurer’s office works with other treasurer’s offices on computer technology, “and you can’t just go out on your own. You have to work with all the counties.” The Treasurers Association, which is part of the Iowa State Association of Counties, has a contract with Tyler Technologies (of Ames); Tyler serves all counties except the largest.

“She talks like we’re behind. We’re not behind,” Lawson said. She added that she wouldn’t put the tax sale online because she doesn’t want out-of-state people buying taxes. She said because of the chance people can lose their homes via the tax sale, she wants more control of it.

Marcia Tasler

Tasler and Laehn spoke at the start of the forum.

Marcia Tasler, a Democrat, first started working in the county recorder’s office 32 years ago, just as computers were coming into use. She said she has worked all those years at getting records so they’re accessible via computer. The job is almost finished, “and I’m really happy with it,” she said.

Thomas Laehn was hired in the summer of 2017 as assistant county attorney, immediately after his graduation from the University of Iowa College of Law. It was known then that longtime county attorney Nicola Martino planned not to run for re-election in 2018.

Thomas Laehn

He said his platform has three overarching principles: Aggressively prosecute crime; Bring efficiencies to the county attorney’s office; and Champion Constitutional rights.
He said crime is increasing in Greene County, “probably because we have a reputation for being lenient on crime.” He wants to change that reputation by working closely with law enforcement during all phases of an investigation and in prosecution of criminal defendants. He will seek stringent penalties for serious crimes and repeat offenders, he said.

About efficiency, soon after he arrival he was able to begin transitioning the county attorney’s office to computerized scheduling and case tracking, greatly decreasing the workload in the office. He plans to decrease the assistant position to part-time next year.

About championing constitutional rights, he said there is no opposition “between the aggressive prosecution of crime and the recognition of individual constitutional rights.” He already works closely with law enforcement regarding search warrants and is available at all times should there be a question from an officer or deputy about making an arrest or searching a vehicle. He wants to prosecute crime “while at the same time respecting the rights of our citizens.”

During the question period, Laehn was asked about the sheriff’s recent work in breaking drug rings. Laehn answered that search warrants conducted in Scranton and Grand Junction in recent months have had a “significant impact on the flow of illegal drugs into Greene County.”

Another search in Jefferson “effectively cut off some of the main pipelines of drugs into the county.”

He said defendants in the cases are not only selling to users, but to other dealers, and that a search in Scranton has led to federal charges.

Laehn is running as a Libertarian. The Libertarian party earned the status of “major party” in Iowa by achieving 3 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.
He said the issues that draw him to the Libertarian party are federal issues with little bearing on how he would conduct himself in office at the county level.

His biggest concern, he said, is the growth and abuse of executive power. He said increasingly laws are made by executive order rather than through legislative processes. “The greatest threat to liberty in the United States is the concentration of power. When power becomes concentrated in one person, it becomes arbitrary,” he said.

He said that for the most part, local and state governments have “good and valid role in our society,” but he thinks “the federal government should stay out of our lives.”

Watch GreeneCountyNewsOnline for a recap of the supervisors’ portion of the forum.

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