First-time candidates seek treasurer’s post

Two first-time candidates for public office are challenging each other to become Salem’s next city treasurer.

Beth Dickey-Thompson, 46, and John Conrad, 61, both filed as Independents for the seat being vacated by longtime city Treasurer Bob Tullis, who’s retiring at the end of his term in December after 16 years. He had previously served eight years on Salem City Council. He was also an Independent after previously filing as a Democrat.

The part-time job currently pays an annual salary of $7,099, with a check issued bi-weekly, but in 2014, the yearly salary increases to $7,241. The position is not eligible for health care benefits.

Neither Dickey-Thompson nor Conrad have ever served in an elected office, but both have had relatives who served as elected officials.

Conrad’s late father, Dr. Paul Conrad, was a general practice physician in the village of Leetonia and served on the Leetonia school board. Dickey-Thompson is the daughter of former Salem City Auditor Fran Dickey, who served five full terms and retired two years into her sixth term at city hall. Her sister-in-law is Fourth Ward Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey.

Dickey-Thompson said both her mother and sister-in-law encouraged her to run for the treasurer’s position. She said she’s a quick learner and has some accounting/clerical experience and decided to file.

Conrad said he was called by a couple of people and asked to run because at the time, nobody had filed. He has some investing experience and ran his own business. He agreed to try and spent some time with Tullis learning about the job and what it entails. Dickey-Thompson was also meeting with Tullis and said she had lots of questions for him.

A native of Leetonia who graduated from Leetonia High School in 1970, Conrad earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University in 1974, then served a year with Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) at the Crow Indian Reservation in Crow Agency, Montana.

After his return to the Salem area, he worked a couple of years at the A&P meat packing plant before getting into the OSU School of Optometry and graduating after four years with a Doctor of Optometry degree in 1981.

Conrad settled in Salem and had a practice for 30 years in East Liverpool before retiring in 2011.

Dickey-Thompson graduated in 1986 from Salem High School where she focused on accounting and clerical studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from American InterContinental University online and an associate’s degree in business management from the same school online, both in 2005.

She’s been working in home health care the past five years, currently working full-time for Visiting Angels and previously working for Shepherd of the Valley. She worked seven years in corrections, starting at the Columbiana County jail in Lisbon. She also worked for Escambia County in Alabama and Miller County in Missouri when she lived in Alabama for six years.

Her job experiences have included the former Worthington Industries for 10 years, Sell Welding doing accounting/clerical/secretarial work, inventory control at the Speaker Shop and waitressing and helping out at the former Penn Grill, which was owned by her father and her brothers.

When it comes to experience, Dickey-Thompson admitted she hasn’t done a lot of investing, but believes she can do the job, saying it was her understanding the investments are mostly federal investments and treasury bills.

“I think I have a pretty level head,” she said.

She also touted her accounting and clerical experience, honesty, work ethic and a desire to serve the public.

Conrad said the city is limited in the type of investments permitted. After talking with Tullis, he said he learned about the SLY method: safety (don’t ever lose any principal), liquidity (don’t tie anything up more than two years) and yield (try to get the most possible). He said he doesn’t know a lot about bonds and CDs, but said he’s been investing his own money since the age of 24.

“I’ll just try to get the most money for the investments,” he said.

Neither candidate saw many issues regarding the treasurer’s office and the income tax department, which falls under the treasurer’s responsibilities. Both talked about how they respected the vast experience of Income Tax Administrator Fred Pamer.

Dickey-Thompson said the office is right on track as far as collecting on past due accounts. She said she would treat everyone fairly and equally and do the job to the best of her abilities.

“The public would be the priority because the community is what this is all about,” she said.

She and her husband, Billy, lost their 9-year-old daughter Olivia last November to a hit-and-run driver and she hasn’t forgotten how the community supported them.

“This community rallied around me and my family when we lost our daughter. I want to be able to give back to the community where I live. I’m thankful for living in Salem – it’s a wonderful community,” she said.

Conrad said the hands of the treasurer are kind of tied up when it comes to investments. He would hope to come up with some ideas for stimulating the local economy and noted how anything affecting the economy affects the city’s bottom line.

In talking about what he would bring to the job, he said “I think experience with investing is an asset that the city could use.”

He would like to work on economic development so the city could have more income.

“I think we have a lot of bright spots,” he said, pointing to the Salem Community Center as an asset.

He and his wife, Kristine (Miles), who grew up in Salem, have two daughters and two sons and one grandson.

Both Conrad and Dickey-Thompson acknowledged the job of treasurer is part-time, with Conrad saying he will put the time into it that’s necessary and Dickey-Thompson saying she’ll put as much time into it as she can.

The term is for four years.