PRINCETON — With less than two weeks until Election Day, Bureau County voters got to hear firsthand from six candidates in three contested county-wide races.
About 100 people attended Thursday evening’s candidates forum sponsored by the Bureau County Republican at the Bureau County Metro Center in Princeton. Candidates in the circuit clerk race, the state’s attorney race, and the coroner race gave opening statements, answered questions (compiled by the BCR Editorial Board and asked by BCR Publisher Sam Fisher), and then finished with closing remarks.
Circuit Clerk candidates Dawn Reglin, a Democrat of Manlius, and Mary Romanelli Dremann, a Republican from Princeton, were asked questions dealing with what their plans would be for their first week in office, including any changes they would make; ways to make the office more fiscally responsible and efficient; technological changes they would like to see in the office; plans to improve customer service; and what makes them the better candidate.
In summarizing some of her comments, Dremann said she will retain the entire current staff, but would do away with the current voice mail system. She would make the office more efficient by making sure customers are greeted immediately when they enter the office and then directed to the right department to get their needs met. She would also look at opening a branch office in Spring Valley to help people who live in the eastern part of the county.
In her responses, Reglin said there are always ways to improve, but she does feel the circuit clerk’s office is run efficiently, fiscally responsible, and respectful and friendly with customers. However, not all staff are cross-trained, which would be a big help. Reglin said she thinks the use of voice mail allows the customers to just push a button to get to their right department, rather than having to go through different people to get where they need to be.
Dremann also talked about her 27 years of experience working on the county, state and township levels of local government. Reglin talked about her seven years of experience within the office as deputy circuit clerk.
Incumbent Patrick Herrmann, a Democrat from Spring Valley, is being challenged by Desiree Bromme Sierens, a Republican originally from Sheffield now of Marengo. The candidates were asked questions dealing with having adequate resources to run the office effectively; how cases are chosen for prosecution; the role of technology in the office; the use of cameras in the courtroom; the top three priorities of the office; and what makes him/her the better candidate.
In summarizing some of his responses, Herrmann said cases are chosen for prosecution based primarily on evidence, with the second factor being if the person had any prior record. The top priorities of the office are fighting and prosecuting crime and working in conjunction with law enforcement to get that done; handling juvenile prosecution, including determining what is in best interest of the child; and making sure the county is poised for wind farms, which are becoming a bigger civil drain on the county.
In some of her responses, Sierens said she is very comfortable with developing technology, which plays a huge part in lots of cases. Her top priorities as state’s attorney would be training her core people within the office in light of new and changing laws and also working in training law enforcement in the areas of evidence; the prosecution of cases; and giving unbiased legal advise to the county board.
Both Herrmann and Sierens said there are still some issues to be worked out before cameras should be allowed in the courtroom, including whether jury members, children, victims of sex crimes, undercover officers and some witnesses should be shown and whether some attorneys may ham it up for the cameras.
Incumbent Janice Wamhoff, a Democrat from Princeton, is being challenged by Randy Grant, a Republican from Wyanet. Their questions dealt with the fiscal responsibilities of the office; the circumstances under which an inquest is conducted; potential conflict with the candidates current schedule or/and occupation; organ donation; and how they would relate to a grieving family.
In summarizing some of her responses, Wamhoff said she believes the office is fiscally responsible. The coroner’s office has the lowest budget in the courthouse at $65,000, with $30,000 of that amount being salary. The county does provide a car and a line item for expenses like gas and hotel. Of that $6,000 line item, she spent $3,400 last year.
In his candidate questionnaire, Grant, who is a funeral director, says he could save money by providing a vehicle to transport the deceased, as well as a cell phone, scanner and printer for death scene photos. Reimbursements expenses would include documented mileage, calls associated with a case and printing of photos.
When asked about a possible schedule and/or occupation conflict, Grant said he doesn’t believe his job as a funeral director will conflict with being a coroner. He is already on call 24/7. If elected, he will hire someone to help him with the funeral business and in the coroner office. In her response, Wamhoff said she’s been coroner for 24 years, adding it’s her only job, and at no time is there a conflict for her.
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