Ellis County clerk's race features Maskus, Schlyer
By DAWNE LEIKER
For two longtime Ellis County employees hoping to be the next Ellis County clerk, there are two distinctly different ways of looking at the position: leadership theory or hands-on application.
Republican Butch Schlyer, Ellis County health administrator since 1994, and Democrat Donna Maskus, who serves as Ellis County deputy county clerk, each have a unique perspective of the office that has been held by Alberta Klaus since 1997. Klaus announced in March she would not seek re-election.
It is the first time both Maskus and Schlyer have sought political office. However, Schlyer said he engaged in many political discussions as a young man with his uncle, Norbert Dreiling, Kansas Democratic Party chairman during Robert Docking's days as governor.
Schlyer, raised a Democrat, changed his party affiliation to Republican in 2008. With an associate degree in funeral service education, and a bachelor of science in nursing, Schlyer received a registered nurse's license in 1993.
From his perspective, the county clerk's office has operated efficiently under Klaus' leadership. However, he said, leadership from the clerk should extend beyond the walls of the clerk's office.
"From my perspective, and I'm a department head for the county, my scope is bigger than my office," he said during an interview last week. "I have to manage and run my office, but my scope is bigger than that.
"I don't see that in the clerk's office. I look at the county clerk's office as a leadership office. Information has to flow in and out of that office ... not just community-wise and state-wise, but they have to know what's going on with the departments."
One way to extend that knowledge is for the new county clerk to regularly attend weekly department head meetings with County Administrator Greg Sund.
"We're discussing policy," he said of the subject matter of the meetings. "We're discussing budgeting.
"Priority budgeting is a big issue we're going to be undertaking."
Although Schlyer said he respects the knowledge Maskus has of the clerk's office, his management skills set him apart as a candidate. His goal, he said, is to bring more leadership elements to the office.
"I've run an office," Schlyer said. "And that's budget preparation and being accountable for expenses and human resource management ... coalition building."
"I have really excelled in that. Those are things I can bring to the office that aren't there."
An extensive list of responsibilities reside in the county clerk's office: from computing and certifying the tax roll and responsibility for county commission meeting minutes to providing passports and conducting all Ellis County elections.
Most of these duties are quite familiar to Maskus. who has 30 years experience working in the Ellis County clerk's office. Maskus has served under three county clerks during her career, and said she has been grateful for the training opportunities those clerks encouraged her to undertake.
Altering how the office is run is not on Maskus's radar, should she be elected.
"We don't look at too many changes; we look at following our strict Kansas statutes," Maskus said. "We've got to follow strict guidelines there.
"We have changes that happen constantly with elections. It takes a lot just to stay with that."
Maskus said she has attended weekly county departmental meetings and has seen benefit to being a part of that process, although the time commitment the meetings entail is often difficult to make.
"We sit down, and we hash out a lot of things, possible changes or things that are going in a good direction," she said. "Sometimes it gets to be a commitment of three hours, and it gets a little hard to do."
"You just have to plan for it. ... But it's a good discussion."
Maskus, who has received the Kansas 4-H Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award, works closely with K-State Extension programs. As a 4-H leader, she said she continues to "take great pride working with the kids."
Implementing the new Kansas voter ID law has been a priority for those in the county clerk's office, and the process has gone smoothly, Maskus said.
"Voter ID has not been a problem," she said. "We haven't had any situations with that."
Office personnel have been trained on new ePoll books that will be used for verifying voter identities during the voting process using an identification scanner. Maskus said it is hoped the new scanners will speed up the voting process.
Overseeing the process that makes voting fast and efficient is a highlight of her job, Maskus said.
"I love my job," she said. "I like working with the people... and election time is so exciting."
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Candidates at a glance
Education: Associate Degree from Dodge City Community Junior College
Completed the Kansas County Clerk's Master's Program through Wichita State University
Family: Husband Stan and sons Mark and Matt
Education: Associate Degree in Funeral Service Education from Edmond, Okla.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Fort Hays State University
Family: Wife, Mary and daughter Amanda Ricketts