LISBON - With county Treasurer Nick Barborak choosing to give up the office to run for state representative, his current position is being contested by former treasurer Linda Bolon and Middleton Township Trustee Eldena Gearhart.
Both took the opportunity to explain why they are running Wednesday night at the Candidate Forum sponsored by the Morning Journal, a sister paper of the Salem News and Ogden newspaper group, and WKBN FirstNews/Fox 17/62.
Bolon, who held the position for six years before making her own step to the state representative position, was asked why she wanted to return to a county position instead of seeking a state seat. While she said she enjoyed her time in Columbus, including serving on the House finance committee, Bolon said losing the election two years ago left her with a decision as to whether to continue in public service. With the position going to be open, Bolon said she decided to seek the treasurer's office again.
"I was delighted to come back to Columbiana County," Bolon said.
However, Gearhart pointed out when Bolon was given the opportunity to leave the county before, she went. Now Gearhart said she wonders whether Bolon is returning for the paycheck or if her heart is really into serving the county.
Gearhart has also challenged Bolon for leaving the state with an $8 billion deficit, although she offered it was not all Bolon's responsibility. However, Bolon said on a state level, the budget must be balanced. She suggested Gearhart is playing games with the numbers. While she was at the state level, Bolon said they cut $2 billion from the budget by cutting duplicate programs.
Bolon also talked about some of the things she did while she was in the treasurer's office before - renovating the office; updating the tax forms; streamlining the process; cutting an employee but still turning tax returns around quicker; designing a website and updating the credit card system.
Gearhart said she would work on collecting back due taxes, stating $11 million is unacceptable when the entire county budget is $17.4 million. She also said she has checked and other counties with more residents have smaller staffs in the treasurer's office. She gave three examples.
Gearhart said her experience is mostly in the private sector, but she wants to give back and serve the people of the county. She said she would leave politics outside the treasurers' office.