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Treasurer candidates discuss accuracy, work ethic
Candidates challenging incumbent Island County Treasurer Ana Maria Nuñez said they can do a better job handling the county’s money.
Nuñez’s former chief deputy Wanda Grone filed to run for the seat last month and was immediately fired by Nuñez.
“I’ve learned now how to run a treasurer’s office,” Grone said. “I’m honest. I work hard.”
The third candidate, title and escrow manager Christa Canell, said she’s running because of complaints she’s heard from former clients about mistakes made by the treasurer’s office.
“Things aren’t running properly,” Canell said. “I’ve managed an office. In escrow accounting, you don’t have room for error.”
Despite the political jabs she’s receiving from her opponents, Nuñez maintains that she has done many positive things while in office and wants the chance to do more.
“To be a good treasurer, you have to open yourself up, you have to really believe in what you are doing and that you want to make a difference,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez, a Democrat, has worked in government accounting for more than 16 years as a Department of Defense employee. She was appointed as the treasurer’s chief deputy prior to winning the top role in 2010. She is a licensed certified public accountant and has a master’s degree in accounting and financial management.
“Running again was not an easy decision, but I believe I can still make a difference,” Nuñez said. “Four years is a start, it’s not a finish.”
One main criticism stems from an extended leave Nuñez took last year to assist an ailing family member. In addition, Nuñez takes four weeks of vacation every year, she said.
Nuñez said she’s not going to apologize for taking the leave that she’s earned or for helping her family.
“I was never out of the loop,” Nuñez said. “I was okay with it and so were the commissioners. Choosing to use your leave is your business. It refreshes you.”
Grone, a Republican, said Nuñez’s multiple absences made it difficult to get things done and that she failed to delegate key tasks.
The treasurer’s office has been struggling with a backlog of unprocessed tax supplements, which Nuñez inherited from her predecessor, Grone said.
In addition, errors made with the Clean Water Utility fee and the tax statements for Camano Island residents have also plagued Nuñez’s tenure.
Grone said Nuñez’s hands-off leadership and abrasive personality contributed to some of the problems.
As a recent chief deputy, Grone said she is the best equipped to go in, take over where Nuñez leaves off and get the office caught up.
“I found the times she was gone the staff responded well to me as a leader,” Grone said.
“My car was always the last one to leave the parking lot. I recognize the actions that need to be taken to improve this office. I expect accountability.”
Grone is a 29-year Washington resident, living the last four years in Island County. Grone is also a licensed certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner. She served as Island County chief deputy treasurer from 2011-2014, following 30 years of private industry experience in senior-level accounting and financial analysis positions.
Canell, also a Republican, said that years of management experience and dealing with large amounts of money accurately as an escrow manager suit her for the treasurer’s role.
“I already have been a manager for 16 years,” Canell said. “I know the rest will be a learning curve, but I will work closely with staff to get up to speed.”
Canell said she believes her hands-on management style will allow her to lead the treasurer’s office in improving accuracy and efficiency.
“That’s my goal — to go in and do it myself if I have to,” Canell said. “That’s taxpayer dollars. The office should work as a cohesive team, and I plan to help and get involved.”
Ultimately, Canell said she’s running because she believes she can do the best job for Island County.
“I care about the people in ourcommunity… they deserve someone who knows how to run an office and be accountable to the taxpayer,” Canell said.
Canell is a lifelong resident of Island County and has worked as the branch manager of Land Title and Escrow for 16 years. She also has a limited practice officer’s license through the Washington Bar Association.
The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 6. The two candidates with the most votes will proceed to the general election in November.