One way or the other, this will be Allen County Treasurer Sue Orth's last political campaign.
Orth, the incumbent Republican, would prefer to win re-election Nov. 6, then leave office in four years, barred by state law from seeking a third consecutive term.
Her Democratic opponent thinks change is needed now to address the stagnation he said one-party rule has imposed on county government.
“Mrs. Orth was unopposed (last time), but you always need two choices. You work harder when you have to work for something,” said Scott Williams, a political newcomer who said his business, community and family background have prepared him for the job.
Orth, meanwhile, points to a list of accomplishments and a first term preceded by a decade as chief deputy treasurer. A newcomer would need at least a year to learn the job, she said.
Those achievements, she added, include creation of online property tax information and payment systems, use of Twitter to communicate with the public, a budget reduction of 7.5 percent this year and programs that cut reduced annual computing fees by $7,000.
“Everything taxpayers want to know is online,” Orth said, noting that budget cuts induced her office to increase efficiency without adding staff. The information is so reliable, Orth said, that accounting firms use it at tax time. In the future, she'd like to implement a system to electronically scan and archive payment records.
Challenges remain, however, especially when it comes to generating income for the county through investments. Because of lower interest rates, annual investment income has dropped in recent years from $6 million to $500,000 – a condition that is causing Orth to look for additional savings and revenues.
“I love numbers and people. Everything was on paper when I went into the office,” she said. “I said, 'This is crazy. It's got to change.'”
Williams, however, wants a different kind of change. Barbershops in the African-American community offer a forum for all kinds of discussions, which Williams said has equipped him to understand residents' concerns. His business background – he was also a grocery manager – taught him how to handle money, and his large family has also proved instructive.
“What I tell people is, 'I helped take care of five kids, a wife at home and took care of my Mom,'” Williams said. “I'm not saying (Orth) has done a bad job, but I am a good businessman and care about the community.”
As for Orth, treasurer will be the last public office she holds. Win or lose, she said, she won't seek another. “I want to do some volunteer work.”