In the race to be Marietta's next treasurer, both candidates bring political connections and a passion for this city to the table.
The current city auditor, Valerie Holley, will retire. Democrat Willa O'Neill, 64, is challenging Republican Cathy Harper, 56, for the position. Neither has financial degrees of any sort, but that isn't a requirement for the job because much of the duties are outlined by city code and state law. Both have cited the importance of investing smartly and the importance of using local banks as long as rates are competitive.
Both are well equipped to serve after serving the public in a variety of ways over the years. Having said that, we give the edge to Harper. For the last several years she has worked tirelessly for Marietta and its residents, first as a Marietta City Councilwoman and most recently as director of The Right Path, an organization that works with youngsters from around Washington County and beyond in an effort to direct kids away from the ills of drugs and alcohol and down a path of self achievement and community service.
While working for 10 years as statewide quality coordinator at the Ohio Department of Transportation, O'Neill lived much of her time away from the city, returning on weekends. She says she has learned efficiencies at the state level that she could apply here. But we think Harper's experience as a city council member for eight years will prove to be more significant.
Harper has proven herself time and time again to be one who will set a goal and achieve it. As a member of Marietta City Council from 1996 to 2003 she spearheaded an effort to update the city's zoning code, a task many sought to avoid but one she took on and saw through to success. During her time on city council, Harper learned the ropes of the city's inner workings and learned first hand the way Marietta's finances are gathered, managed and allocated. She served on the planning and zoning committee and the finance committee. Although she failed in her bid to be elected Marietta's mayor in 2003, she has continued to work in the public eye.
"I've never left politics," she says. "I just drive a different vehicle."
As director of The Right Path, Harper has nurtured many connections throughout the local community and the state. She's a proficient grant writer and often pursues donations and holds fundraisers to make up the funds the grants don't provide. If elected Marietta treasurer, Harper says she will step down as executive director of The Right Path but maintain a seat on its board of directors.
Harper said if elected, she would try to communicate more with city residents through local newspapers and other means in an effort to keep the public informed about the city's financial health. We think that's important, considering much of city services are determined by available revenues.
Harper says she's ready for a new challenge and we've never known her to do anything but meet a challenge head on. A true public servant, not a politician, Harper has found ways to give back to the community both while sitting in public office and out. In this case, we think voters should elect her back to public office and vote for Harper for treasurer on Election Day.