TWO MEN SEEK the relatively thankless job of watching over the county’s funds as the elected county treasurer. The treasurer is designated by state law as the chief fiscal officer of the county, the person who receives the revenues paid to the county and the person who oversees where all that money goes.
We like to think that we live in a small county, and in most ways we do, but this small county spends $150 million a year. It’s an important job.
The two candidates are Democrat Peter Stoll of Canaan, also endorsed by the Working Families Party, and Republican PJ Keeler of Claverack, who also has the endorsement of the Conservative and Independence parties.
If you live in Columbia County and don’t know PJ Keeler’s name, then either you really haven’t lived here very long or you’ve never bothered to wonder how so many highly trained people, most of them your neighbors, respond so quickly whenever somebody faces a medical emergency. He has led the county’s Emergency Medical Services for years and done so in ways that have kept the focus on public safety, not PJ Keeler. He’s also owned and operated a family business for decades. These are credentials that warrant serious consideration for a candidate seeking public office.
Mr. Stoll, a certified public accountant with extensive executive experience, cannot compete on the basis of local roots, nor has he made the longtime contributions to the welfare of the county that Mr. Keeler has. But this job of chief fiscal officer requires something that of the two, only Mr. Stoll has: professional expertise in the bewilderingly complex field of money management. He also has a lifetime of experience in the maze of reporting requirements that allow others to know exactly where their money has gone and how it got there.
Does that really matter in a place like Columbia County, where all the players are likely to know each other and have a sense of what’s going on? All you have to do to answer that question is to remember how, just two years ago, it was revealed that county officials had laid claim to an imaginary $9 million. Officials were pretending that the county was owed state and revenues that they knew — or should have known — would never materialize. And this shell game had been going on for years.
To blow the whistle on stunts like that, not to mention to combat the fraudsters who lurk just a click away on the Internet or, let’s face it, the crooks who sometimes weasel their way inside, this county needs an independently elected treasurer who knows best how to protect the tax money we give the county. In this race, Peter Stoll is that person. I will vote for him as treasurer; I hope you will, too.
George Davis for coroner
THIS COUNTY HAS THREE elected coroners. They are the officials whose primary duty is to investigate so-called “unnatural deaths” and unattended deaths and determine a cause. The coroner need not be a physician, but incumbent George Davis, whose term expires this year and who is seeking a second term, happens to be a medical doctor. His challenger, James Bertram, is a former sheriff of Columbia County.
Mr. Bertram stresses both his impressive law enforcement background and his awareness of the need for compassion and sensitivity when dealing with the families of those who die suddenly in unexpected ways, including those who are the victims of crimes. Measured against most any other candidate, those would be reasons to elect him.
But Dr. Davis isn’t just any candidate. He has demonstrated his compassion for people in distress through his decades practicing medicine. As for the investigations, with all the highly trained law enforcement personnel in this county, what distinguishes him is his medical knowledge, which gives him special insight into the causes of the deaths a coroner is called to investigate.
He also has the ability to communicate on a professional level with the forensic pathologists, the specialists whose opinions may eventually affect the fate of others in criminal cases. In these matters, there is no substitute for the observations of a doctor and his ability to speak the language of medical science with his peers.
Dr. George Davis renders a great service to the people of this county, and on November 8 I urge voters to re-elect him as a Columbia County Coroner.