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Get to know the Wadena County Auditor/Treasurer candidates

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Heather Olson2 / 6
Judy Taves3 / 6
Curt Kreklau4 / 6
Brian Hagen5 / 6
Stacy Smagacz6 / 6

Five candidates are vying for the seat of Wadena County auditor/treasurer. Here's a bit about each one to help you make your choice in the primary election Aug. 14. The major functions of the office of auditor/treasurer include the accounting functions and creation of financial statements, calculation and collection of property taxes for all jurisdictions in the county, administering elections, and managing the county's investments, according to the county's job description. Candidates are listed in order as they will appear on the ballot.

Heather Olson

I currently live north of Verndale with my husband and three children, a five-year-old and three-year-old twins. We also have two dogs. I love to do things with our family. I also enjoy scrapbooking. I grew up in Frazee and obtained my Bachelor's degree in Accounting from Minnesota State University Moorhead. For the past five and a half years, I have worked for Wadena County as the Highway Accountant. I have six years of banking experience within my 10+ years of accounting experience. My entire professional career has been in the finance area.

Annually, I work with a 5.4 million dollar budget from everyday finances to long term capital project planning. I have also worked with the countywide budget and property tax levy, while preparing and presenting Truth in Taxation, which informs taxpayers where their property taxes are being used. I have the experience and knowledge of the county system to do a great job for the taxpayers. I am a perfect fit for the job as I have the experience and knowledge to succeed in the position. I will be a voice for the Wadena County taxpayers within our local county government. I am asking the taxpayers of Wadena County to elect me as their next Auditor/Treasurer.

Brian Hagen

A Verndale resident, Hagen has been living in the Wadena County area for over 20 years. He is an entrepreneur and currently owns several businesses in the area including rental properties, water treatment services and Marlin's Small Engine in Wadena. He previously owned Verndale and Menahga turkey farms.

Hagen said he is the ideal candidate for the job not just because of his accounting background, but because of his business background. He has a minor in accounting and majored in business economics at the University of Minnesota Morris. Hagen has been self employed since age 25.

He has a 13-year-old son attending school at Verndale. He's a former mayor of Brownton, Minn., where he served two terms. Hagen said he learned to pinch pennies coming from a family of 11. He considers himself conservative and said taxes in Wadena County are far too high.

Hagen said the auditor/treasurer seat is more than just a county job, it's a position of leadership and he feels he can be a leader, informing and conveying his ideas to the county commission.

"I think it's important that the right person gets in there to assist the commissioners," Hagen said. "The importance of this position is it's not purely an accountant, it's not just putting numbers in the right columns. The person needs a diverse background with a great business background."

Hagen ran for the auditor/treasurer seat against Char West in 2010 and was defeated.

Curt Kreklau, Jr.

I'm filing for the office of Auditor-Treasurer because Wadena County needs leadership, integrity and innovation in that office. For the past five years, there has been an extreme level of dysfunction in that department. There is recurring financial mismanagement and mistreatment of employees on the part of the incumbent Auditor-Treasurer. The county has spent tens of thousands of dollars on investigations and labor attorney fees due to the conduct of the incumbent Auditor-Treasurer. I have done my best to minimize the financial consequences of this conduct to the taxpayers of Wadena County in my role as Coordinator and subsequently HR/IT Director. The most effective way for me to eliminate this dysfunction and restore integrity to Wadena County is to be elected as Auditor-Treasurer.

I serve on the following committees:

• Budget Committee

• Personnel Committee

• Negotiations Committee

• Insurance Committee

• IT Committee

I currently manage over $800,000 of the county budget in my two departments. I also function as the Interim Supervisor of the Auditor-Treasurer Department staff, I KNOW the job.

My qualifications include military service as an officer in the US Air Force, a Masters of Business Administration, and experience in the private sector managing project budgets in excess of $25 million. I am a local farmer, and understand the local tax burden. I serve on the Sebeka Economic Development Authority.

My candidacy is motivated by my desire to give the taxpayers of Wadena County the integrity, competency and performance that they deserve, and I am the one to deliver those attributes.

Stacy Smagacz

I have lived in Wadena County for over 25 years and owned my home in Sebeka for 20 years, my husband and I have five children and three grandchildren. I spend my spare time enjoying the outdoors with family and friends doing just about anything. When we can't be outside we are indoors making memories.

I have an AAS degree in accounting, along with compliance and audit training. I am the Administrative Accountant in the Auditor/Treasurer's Office and love working for Wadena County. I have 15 years in the banking industry with 13 years preparing the monthly bank financial statements for the board of directors, along with quarterly reports for the regulators, seven years compliance and five years auditing all functions of the bank. I worked closely with the external auditor and federal regulators when they came to audit the bank.

I feel that the taxpayers of Wadena County need a person who will treat them fairly, honestly and equally! I love to learn and intend to bring that to this position, adding to my existing knowledge. I will strive to learn all required and statutory duties along with learning everything about the duties in the office so that I can assist when and where needed. I feel I am a good candidate with my past experience with audit and compliance and my present experience working in the office already. I'm the right person, at the right time, for the right reason!

Judy Taves

The incumbent, Taves, was appointed to her position in March 2013 after the resignation of Char West. She ran unopposed in 2014. Taves is married to Wadena attorney Harry Taves. They have two children Jennifer and Jonathan, both WDC graduates. Taves was a member of the WDC School Board from 1994-2008. She's been involved in volunteering in the community, school and church. Her education is in public accounting. She worked as a CPA for 18 years and as an accounting instructor at M State before taking the job with the county.

Taves said she is seeking re-election because she has a great passion for her job of over five years. She calls herself a getter-doner.

Experience includes:

• Instituting consistent, verifiable internal controls that have resulted in removal of audit findings in 2016 that had been assigned to Wadena County since 1999,

• Managing a $24 million budget,

• Working with DNR and legislature to allow tax forfeited parcels back on tax rolls,

• Implementing board approved software and streamlining processes such as ACH payments to staff, vendors and taxpayers, consistent, weekly vendor payment schedule—saving tax dollars,

• As clerk to the board, introduced board action forms to enable board members to have advance notice of what would be proposed to them at a meeting, posting the board packets to the website, proposed board meeting guidelines including consent agenda, timely posting of minutes to website and newspaper,

• Introduced new election protocols in 2018 to ensure integrity and accountability,

• Emphasis on customer service.