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Election 2013: City treasurer candidates tout experiences

September 27, 2013
By Phil Foreman - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

With current City Treasurer Valerie Holley's decision to retire, Marietta voters will have the choice of two longtime residents to fill that role.

Former Marietta City Councilwoman Cathy Harper, a Republican, goes up against Democrat Willa O'Neill on Election Day - Nov. 5.

Harper served on council from 1996 through 2003 and was chairwoman of the planning, zoning and annexation committee and served on lands and parks and finance committees.

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"I worked closely with all city departments, including the treasurer's office," Harper said. "I understand the duties of the office, the importance of investment accounts, city finances, balancing the budget, tax collection and working with the auditor's office and the community."

Harper said she decided to run for treasurer because she misses city government.

As the coordinator of The Right Path for Washington County for 10 years, she has written several grants for the program and has worked to provide activities all on a shoestring budget, thanks to community support, fundraisers, United Way and foundation grants.

Fact Box

Cathy Harper

Age: 56.

Address: 715 Second St.

Family: Married 32 years to Michael; four sons (one deceased); one daughter; four grandsons.

Education: Marietta High School Class of 1975; pursuing an Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist I certification.

Political Experience: City Council 1996 to 2003; chairwoman of Planning, Zoning and Annexation Committee.

Willa O'Neill

Age: 64.

Address: 104 Flintwood Drive.

Family: Two daughters, two grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor of science from Ohio University in education; graduate of Portsmouth High School.

Work experience: Taught for six years in public schools. Worked 25 years at the Ohio Department of Transportation. Retired in October 2011.

Political experience: None.

The staff at The Right Path uses several strategies to engage youth and provide social and community service opportunities to help them feel connected to their community.

"I will bring my commitment and enthusiasm to the office of treasurer," Harper said. "The treasurer's office follows the mandates of the Ohio Revised Code and the codified ordinances the City Council passes. The office has a dedicated staff and is a well-oiled machine thanks to our current treasurer, Val Holley. With my background as community organizer, I hope to share with our community the duties carried out by our city treasurer's office."

O'Neill spent the past decade working for the Ohio Department of Transportation as a statewide quality coordinator. She traveled across the state helping ODOT employees look at work processes to make them more efficient and get better results. Her goal was to make the department more professional to make the best use of tax dollars.

"I have spent time with Val and her staff (to learn) what goes on in her office," O'Neill said. "I have traveled to other places to look for best practices we could use here."

O'Neill said she would take advantage of the current computer technologies to bring the office more up to date. She likes the electronic deposits and city income tax filing done electronically in Athens. Cleveland's city income tax department uses a program to match Internal Revenue Service forms with local city income tax forms to ensure those who are supposed to be paying are paying.

"Revenue coming back to local governments is in a critical position because cities are getting less of a return on our tax dollars than we have in the past. It is important we ... get the revenue that is owed to us and that it is wisely used," she said.

"I've learned through my experience through state government how absolutely necessary it is for public officials to be good stewards of tax dollars," O'Neill said. "The citizens demand that, and they have the right to expect that."

In Athens, the program brought in $300,000 in delinquent taxes. In Chillicothe, it found for that city $125,000.

"The city income tax they have collected and the bed tax were at record highs in 2012, but they have lost so much money from the state that it nowhere near makes up for that loss," O'Neill said.



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