GOSHEN — Three candidates are running in the race for Elkhart County auditor — incumbent Pauline Graff, former township assessor John Loos and local business owner Jim Erb.
Graff hopes to continue bringing her passion for county service to the post, while Loos and Erb say they're eager to bring a fresh perspective to the office.
Job description and salary
The county auditor has a wide range of responsibilities. He must coordinate tax collection and distribution, develop financial analysis and cash flow projects, assist with budget preparations, and serve as secretary to the board of commissioners and as clerk to the county council, according to the county's department of human resources.
The auditor's salary is budgeted at $75,110 for 2014. The auditor's office is at 117 N. Second Street.
Graff, 61, is running for her second and final four-year term as auditor.
"I love working for the taxpayers of Elkhart County. Yes, it's a challenge, but I like a challenge. I love my staff, I want to be here for them and work with them to get the job done for the county and I’m not ready to retire," she said.
Her experience makes her the most qualified candidate, she said, and being re-elected will save the county money.
"I've already been trained for the four years to do it, and the taxpayers have already paid me for doing that training, basically," she said.
She started working for the county in 1999 in payroll, and was later promoted to chief deputy auditor. She said that job was like a stepping stone to becoming the auditor "because you need to know how everything functions."
Her passion for the job stems from her knack with numbers, she said, and her mantra as auditor is to work smarter, not harder.
"You utilize the technology that you have and jobs can become more streamlined, and you have more time to do other things," she said.
In between dealing with the ins and outs of her duties, one of her top priorities is providing good customer service.
"I'm always willing to talk to the taxpayer and make them understand how the process works if they don't understand it," she said.
Loos, 69, is running for the auditor seat with several public service positions already on his résumé. He joined the U.S. Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam, and later spent 18 years teaching and 14 years as elected assessor for Cleveland Township.
He works part-time for the county assessor's office dealing with property tax assessment appeals.
He's running for auditor because he thinks the department needs a change in leadership.
"I’m ready and willing to do what’s necessary to improve the auditor's office," he said.
If elected, his first order of business would be reviewing procedures and policies to improve efficiency. He would also work to get more information on the Internet, and take a closer look at how the budget is being spent.
"I understand there’s going to be a lot of new things for me, but I do have a master's degree in education and I have the highest level I need for the assessor’s certification. It’s not like I can’t learn," he said.
Loos believes he's the best candidate in terms of honesty, integrity and fiscal responsibility.
"I know they sound like catchwords, but still, that’s exactly what I would hope voters would want out of me and my personnel," he said.
Erb, 51, is president and CEO of NiteSource Security in New Paris and a former police officer for Goshen
In 2004 he started volunteering for Mitch Daniels' campaign, and in 2005 was appointed to the governor's Professional Engineering Board, where he served as liaison to the attorney general. He also served on the Indiana Law Enforcement Advisory Council.
Now, he's ready to get involved in hometown politics.
"It’s gratifying to be able to help make decisions that help your neighbor out and the people you go to church with and the people your kids go to school with," he said.
If elected, he hopes to increase department revenue by giving title search companies increased online access accompanied with a fee. Erb also plans to run a tight ship within the department's budget while avoiding staff eliminations.
"I don't feel there's any need to ask for any increase in the budget at the auditor's office, and I don't have any plans of reducing staff. I think the current staff is where it needs to be."
Erb chose the auditor's office because he believes it's in need of a change in leadership.
"It's about bringing a positive approach, a new attitude to the office, that I think will create more efficiency and more production and just a better work climate," he said. "That'll resonate to the other offices in county government."