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SPOTLIGHT
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Clerk race features very different candidates

Published on -10/26/2012, 10:06 AM

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I have taken a particular interest in the Ellis County Clerk's office because of its central role in administering elections since I arrived. Chief elections officers are an important link between the public and the candidates we elect.

For the first time in a long time, we will have a new county clerk in 2013. Alberta Klaus is retiring, and the race to replace her is between Democrat Donna Maskus and Republican Butch Schlyer.

In the two candidates, we have competing visions of the future, which should make for an interesting election.

Maskus has the inside line -- lots of yard signs and more than three decades of experience as deputy under three different county clerks. As befits someone closely tied to Klaus' administration, there's not much Maskus says she would do differently than Klaus if elected, including strengthening ties to Fort Hays State University.

When I asked if she would be interested in talking more with student groups such as the Student Government Association or the American Democracy Project, she pointed to Ms. Klaus' interviews with the University Leader newspaper as adequate communication with FHSU. However, the clerk's office also makes regular efforts to communicate with non-university local groups such as Senior Companions, something Ms. Maskus proudly mentioned in our conversation.

Schlyer's vision is very different. When I spoke with Schlyer, he touted his experience in budgeting, interacting with county commissioners, the county administrator and leadership as Ellis County health administrator.

Schlyer believes there is a leadership deficit in the clerk's office, pointing out the lack of a representative from the county clerk's office at department head meetings. Schlyer envisions a different direction for the clerk's office, one he believes should be open to new ideas and innovations.

Like Maskus, Schlyer was noncommittal about further engaging FHSU.

County election officials are important roles, and even if they don't get the ink other races do the next county clerk will have a significant role in administering elections, facilitating businesses and taxes, and serving as the public's liaison with county government.

The only sure thing in this election is that two very different options will appear on the ballot.

Chapman Rackaway is an associate professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

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