Lucas County voters won't see the name of longtime county Treasurer Ray Kest on the ballot Nov. 2, but that hasn't kept his name out of the treasurer's race.
Republican Betty Shultz has distanced herself from Mr. Kest, whom she endorsed for mayor in 2001, while Democrat Wade Kapszukiewicz has tried to paint his opponent as Mr. Kest's political heir.
Neither candidate is a financial professional, and both say their service on financial committees overseeing city and school district budgets qualifies them to collect and distribute more than $400 million a year in county property taxes. The candidates - both Toledo City councilmen - say they expect to serve the full four-year term if elected.
If elected, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would institute a program approved by the General Assembly in 1997 to collect delinquent taxes by allowing banks to buy up property liens. He said his program could generate between $4 million and $6 million for local agencies.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would eliminate what he called "unnecessary perks" in the office, and require competitive bids on all contracts.
"I don't think you can say the treasurer's office is working well when tens of thousands of dollars are being spent on cars and cell phones and trips, and there are millions not being collected from taxpayers," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
He vowed to "dismantle the Kest political machine," and produced an audio recording from a February radio interview of Mr. Kest supporting Mrs. Shultz.
But Mr. Kapszukiewicz's claim that a treasurer's office employee was the telephone contact about a Shultz fund-raiser in June was undermined when Mrs. Shultz produced the invitation, listing another individual as the contact.
Mr. Kest, a Democrat first elected treasurer in 1984, did not seek re-election. He came under investigation after The Blade reported he had spent $14,683 of public funds for expenses related to his PhD studies at Cleveland State University, including tuition, hotel rooms, books, and travel in a county vehicle. A special prosecutor in Ottawa County is awaiting completion of a state audit of the county to decide whether to bring charges against Mr. Kest.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz sponsored the downtown employment incentive program, which pays cash grants to new businesses that locate in the central business district. He led the creation last year of the northwest Ohio prescription drug discount card, through which 12,000 people have saved a total of $200,000.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz has worked for the New Ohio Institute, the Lucas County Mental Health Board, and COMPASS addiction treatment agency. He is now a part-time consultant. Mr. Kapszukiewicz and his wife, Sarah Weglian, recently became the parents of a baby girl.
Mrs. Shultz denied that Mr. Kest's lieutenants were running her campaign, or that she had Mr. Kest's backing.
The longtime West Toledo office holder has launched her own campaign to "depoliticize" the treasurer's office, saying Democrats have a "stranglehold" on county offices. She said she would appoint a panel of respected financial advisers to help her make changes in the office and to select her team of top assistants.
"I don't approve of bringing people over just to reward political service," Mrs. Shultz said.
Mrs. Shultz questioned the value of Mr. Kapszukiewicz's proposal to sell tax liens, saying that the liens typically are bought by out-of-state banks and produce only a one-time cash infusion. She said she would take other approaches, such as putting delinquent taxpayers on monthly payment plans. And she said she would appoint a senior citizen ombudsman.
Mrs. Shultz said the treasurer's office has an "admirable" reputation among other county treasurers and is known for innovative practices, but said that "the personal choices of the treasurer are not admirable."
Mrs. Shultz and her husband, John, are the parents of three grown children.
On council, Mrs. Shultz has positioned herself as a feisty independent, showering the mayor's office with questions. She regularly votes against assessments to pay for leaf and snow collection, which she calls "unvoted" taxes.
Mrs. Shultz has pushed for updating the city's computers, the hiring of more inspectors for the building inspector's office to speed up the office's turnaround time, and the creation last year of a city department of information and communications technology.
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