During the recent county elections, over 26,500 voters made a choice for district attorney, a position that oversees our county’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, only 882 voters made a selection for the county treasurer’s post, a position that oversees a budget of over $20 million.
Michael Boucher’s write-in candidacy outpolled acting county finance administrator Pamela Linscott, also a write-in. Boucher’s margin of victory was 74 votes.
Why write-in candidates? Because no one had met the deadline for placing his or her name on the formal ballot.
The results point out the shortcomings of a process that many county commissioners have long wanted to address. Their goal: Make the treasurer’s post an appointed position. That appointment process would include interviewing aspiring treasurers and evaluating their accounting skills. A treasurer appointed by the commissioners would answer to the commissioners.
But Hancock County does not appoint its treasurer. The treasurer is elected. Winning a four-year term as treasurer makes the successful candidate accountable only to voters. In this case, only 3.3 percent of those eligible to cast a vote wrote in a name. How many of those who showed up at the polls on Election Day even knew what name to write in?
It must also be noted that because of Mr. Boucher’s acknowledged lack of financial training, the county commissioners are retaining the staff position of county finance administrator. The staff member holding this post, Ms. Linscott, who Boucher defeated in the treasurer’s race, has the skill set needed for the job.
County Commissioner Bill Clark decried the election process for the treasurer’s job as “an archaic system.”
“It probably worked 50 years ago, but it’s far more complicated
today,” he said.
The county commissioners are our CEOs. They supervise several departments to ensure that service commitments are met for all citizens. Can we truly expect them to effectively manage all of the county’s finances when one of the primary roles of county administration is left to a popular election in which candidates need no
credentials beyond residency?
Mr. Boucher may well gain the skills necessary to execute his new position. Yet, the system that requires the current workaround does not serve us as taxpayers and citizens nor does it meet the needs of the commissioners or the county departments that so many residents count on. We can do better, and we support Commissioner Clark and others as they advocate converting the treasurer’s post to an appointed position, as several other Maine counties already have done.