The two candidates seeking to serve as the next Clermont County Auditor are both experienced, but one is hoping to begin her fourth term in the office and the other is looking to start a new era in the county.
Linda Fraley, 12-year Clermont County Auditor, is banking on her experience in the office and a reputation for excellence to win her a fourth term. Greg Conrad, democratic challenger, wants to see nearly 20 years of republican dominance in the county traded for two-party representation.
“It’s my belief that, at the county level, we need two-party representation,” said Conrad. “For the last 16-20 years, this county had one single party in absolute control, meaning that the entire county’s elected offices is ruled by one party. We need to have this two-party representation because it’s the only checks and balances we have at the county level. We don’t have that built in like at the state and federal level.”
Fraley, as an office holder of 12 years, has vast amounts of experience in both public service and the financial work involved with being an auditor. Conrad, who has also served in several elected capacities, offers years of business experience of his own. Fraley once served on the county school board before people asked her to step forward and run for the office, which she said she has tried to raise up to a new level.
“I think that, unlike the sheriff, engineer or judges who have educational qualifications, the auditor doesn’t,” said Fraley. “I am a certified public accountant, and I personally think that this position should have that, since you are the chief financial officer for the county. We were one of three counties to implement the new accounting standards in Ohio, I think because I professionally was able to recognize the need for that. It’s important for government officials to have a standard in reporting, the same way the private sector does.”
Fraley said that a number of programs and improvements she has made over the years have proven beneficial to the county. Other programs she intends to continue expanding, including more computerization and more services that allow people who utilize the auditor’s office to complete their work quicker and easier.
“Right after coming in, I brought the clerk of courts outside accounts in, which was good for our investment portfolio,” said Fraley. “Also, we utilize the same staff, so we didn’t hire anymore people, and the courts can use their people for the courts only. I think, because I was a private business person, I understand how to manage staff. If you can use people to the best of their abilities and control your staff, that’s one of the biggest area you can save money in.”
Conrad, in comparison, has overseen a number of financial and managerial issues of his own. Working both in the private and public sector, Conrad said that he has more than amassed the skills necessary to serve as auditor.
“For 25 years, I ran my own business in financial planning, insurance and pensions for corporations and individuals,” said Conrad. “For the last five years, I’ve been the vice president for a major manufacturer in Amelia with a budget of about $15 million. For the last two and a half years, I’ve sat as a Pierce Township trustee with a budget of about $10 million. In the late 1980s, I sat for about four years on the West Clermont School board with a budget of about $30 million at that point.”
While Conrad said that he can’t claim to know of any wrongdoing within the county government, he said that he feared a perpetual one-party system would eventually result in corruption. To that end, Conrad is hoping to see both himself and other democrats elected to office in upcoming elections to help create a system of checks and balances that will maintain accountability.
“The biggest thing I’ve been saying for 10 years is we have to have two-party representation, and I believe in term limits,” said Conrad. “You get elected, you get in, you run hard and do your job then get the heck out of the way. Linda has been there for 12 years, and is asking for 16 years. I think you should do your job and move on.”
Fraley said that, despite party lines, her reputation has always been held in high regard, and she expected this race would do nothing but support that.
“Starting out, I wrote my opponent a letter saying that I was going to run on my merits and stay positive,” said Fraley. “I’ve done that and plan to continue. I’ve had some really good compliments from the other party saying that I’m doing a good job, and when it comes from the other party, it says a lot. They look at you with more critical eye.”