Chesterton Tribune



Voters to pick Kuziela or Udvare for Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer job

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In the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Republican Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela will face a challenge from Democrat Courtney Udvare. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to a candidate questionnaire.

The Tribune reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) For Kuziela: Age, number of terms in office. 31. I have served one and a half terms. I am currently serving my first elected term, after having served the last two years of my predecessorís term following her retirement.

For Udvare: Age, occupation. 34 years old. Director of the Westville-New Durham Township Public Library

(2) Describe the Clerk-Treasurerís responsibilities and your qualifications for the position (125 words).

Kuziela: The Office of the Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of the town's records and finances. The town records include all contracts, minutes, and ordinances. One of our fellow residents dubbed me ďa handmaiden of historyĒ in my quest to preserve our minutes and ordinances from 1899 to present. The Clerk-Treasurer also serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the town. As such, the Clerk-Treasurer prepares and certifies the annual budget, performs all state reporting, and is in charge of all receipts and disbursements, including payroll and investment management. Expenditures are made upon approval of the Town Council. I am also responsible for administering oaths of office and issuing all licenses authorized by statute.

Udvare: The Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of maintaining the townís financials. He/she creates the budget; manages payroll, accounts receivable/payable, financial reporting, and record maintaining. Additionally he/she keeps up to date on the latest changes to financial regulations. As a Library Director I have been doing all of these for the last eight years. I also have experience working with a board, interacting with the State Board of Accounts, Department of Local Government Finance, and managing employees.

(3) For Kuziela: Why are you running for re-election as Clerk-Treasurer? (75 words) I hope to finish what I started which is a lasting legacy of fiscal responsibility for future generations. Our community is growing rapidly which brings a constantly changing tax environment. Due to changes in legislation, such as property tax caps and changes in state regulations, we need to be more creative in funding Town Council mandated projects. I would like to see through the continued digitizing of records, and internal control policy updates.

For Udvare: Why are you running for election as Clerk-Treasurer? (75 words) As a lifelong resident, Iím running for Clerk-Treasurer to ensure our townís finances are well-tended and secure. The townís future is my future. Our town and its employees deserve to feel the person managing the budget, along with employee payroll and benefits, cares about getting it right every time. Iím experienced in finance, budgeting, management, and training. Iím ready to take on the responsibilities of the Clerk-Treasurer and serve our community.

(4) For Kuziela: What specific skill sets have you brought to the position? (75 words) Adaptability, planning, organizational, creativity, customer service, leadership, team building, accountability, information gathering, mentoring, and analysis. While utilizing those skills, I have developed a team of dedicated staff with unique perspectives and backgrounds where we complement each otherís knowledge in our operations.

For Udvare: What specific skill sets would you bring to the position? (75 words) I am experienced in almost all the duties required of the Clerk-Treasurer. I have a record of being well organized and thorough with the ability to be aware of the changing codes, regulations, and expectations of the role. I know what itís like to serve a community and take pride in what I do. Iíve loved working with numbers since studying for my bachelors at Purdue North Central. I am experienced in managing employees.

(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and explain why you consider yourself to be the stronger candidate (100 words).

Kuziela: Experience. Clerk-Treasurer is a complex and difficult office for anyone to come into without having direct experience. I trained under Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski for two years before being honored by succeeding her and now have ten years of extensive experience. I have earned two Bachelor of Science Degrees in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership and Supervision. I am currently working on my Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Accountancy at Indiana University Northwest. These classes will count towards my accounting requirement for the CPA exam.

Udvare: While I do not personally know my opponent, I believe I am a perfect fit for the position based on my long standing and current role. I am very familiar with the web-based budget program currently used by the town. Iím also familiar with the financial reporting system used for budgets and transparency by Indiana State government I am always eager to learn. I am thorough, professional, and pride myself in my attention to the details. Whatever position I am in, I am fully committed in my time and effort into making it the best it can be.

(6) What are the key issues in this race? (150 words)

Kuziela: Making sure the townís finances are being managed in a responsible manner. Some of the things I've been working on in addition to the finances include improving government transparency, updating the town information technology to include cyber security/training, and internal controls oversight. If re-elected, my office will strive to have town business more easily available to the public. There are too many local units of government that have fallen prey to hackers at a considerable cost to the taxpayer. The Town Manager and I are currently working on solutions to enhance the townís IT security. The internal control policies will continue to be tested and improved to be in alignment with the Indiana State Board of Accounts mandates.

Udvare: Some of the key issues in the race are accountability and accuracy. The Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of the town financials. Any mistake made has the ability to impact the entire town in a variety of ways. While things do happen, the Clerk-Treasurer needs to do everything in his/her power to prevent errors. It could be something as simple as attending training sessions offered by the state. The Clerk-Treasurer needs to be accountable and constantly be striving to improve. Other key issues are ensuring the town is financially ready to implement all of the recent larger scale projects it wishes and execute the next comprehensive plan.

(7) For Kuziela: In April 2017, you announced to the Town Council that, owing to a mistake in your office, there would be a shortfall of approximately $800,000 in the General Fund, necessitating what you called at the time ďprudent expenditure decisions in an attempt to mitigate the shortfall.Ē Can you explain exactly how this mistake occurred and do you take responsibility for it? (150 words). I mistakenly included the debt levies as part of the maximum levy concerning the 2017 budget. By doing so, the Chesterton property owners were not taxed as high a rate as they could have been, therefore, we did not collect the maximum amount of taxes allowed. I have and always will take full responsibility for this mistake. I developed solutions individually and worked with each of the Town Council members to ensure it would not happen again. Despite the fact that taxpayers did not pay as much as they could have, the town did not miss a beat without any services being cut. This is because of sound financial planning between the Town Council and my office. I have always been committed to performing my duties with the highest level of competence and integrity.

For Udvare: Chesterton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141—which has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with the incumbent—endorsed your candidacy for Clerk-Treasurer within days of your filing. What can you say to assure voters that youíre neither a one-issue candidate nor would you be a one-department Clerk-Treasurer? (150 words) While I was fortunate to get an early endorsement from the Chesterton Fraternal Order of Police, I have been in contact with several other departments and town officials. I feel strongly that the Clerk-Treasurer must serve everyone equally and without bias. As someone who wants what is best for Chesterton, I look forward to working with every department to address every issue that our community faces.

(8) For Kuziela: What measures have you taken to ensure that this mistake or similar ones donít occur again? (75 words) I pledged and have implemented personal procedures to minimize the chance of anything like this happening again. Internally, I have instituted cross training policies for my deputy to fully comprehend and cross check my entries on budget matters. Additionally, the town has an excellent financial advisor in Ted Sommer of London Witte and his firm who annually reviews my property tax and tax cap calculations.

For Udvare: Since filing for Clerk-Treasurer, this past winter, you have not—to the Chesterton Tribuneís knowledge—attended any meetings of the Town Council or of other municipal bodies at which the Clerk-Treasurerís presence is required or customary. Why havenít you? How have you been familiarizing yourself with the issues on the ground as well as with the ways and means of municipal governance? (75 words) As the Director of the Westville Library, I work most hours we are open which can be as late as 8 p.m. Unfortunately, Town Council and other municipal body meetings overlap considerably with my schedule. I make sure to follow closely with what is going on through other means. I read the Chesterton Tribune daily which covers government meetings. I also read the agendas and minutes on the Chesterton website.

(9) For Kuziela: On what issue, or in what matter—aside from the budget mistake—do you believe your office could have done a better job? (75 words) I believe my office can do a better job when it comes to explaining and presenting reports to the Town Council. The council needs to be more fully informed in the nitty-gritty details when it comes to operations and state mandated changes.

For Udvare: On what issue, or in what matter, do you believe the incumbent Clerk-Treasurer has done a good job? (75 words) While I do not know the incumbent, the department does a good job of keeping the minutes and agendas posted on the town website. This is vital for being able to keep legislators and the public informed of town proceedings.

(10) For Kuziela: What improvements or efficiencies have you introduced to the Clerk-Treasurerís Office during your tenure? (75 words) The Chesterton team including myself came up with creative ways for overdue and well deserved raises for all our valuable employees, including substantial increases to pensions for Police and Fire (27 percent and 48 percent respectively). Annually, I work with all department heads to develop their budgets within the confines of state law. The Town Code was updated for the first time since 2006. We have continued cross training between staff members within my office.

For Udvare: What do you consider to be some of your achievements while in the employ of the Westville Public Library? (75 words) When I started in 2011, the library was not meeting state standards. We now exceed state standards. Under my direction, we have computerized the entire library collection as well as our accounting system. We have instituted reciprocal borrowing of materials throughout the state. We have received several grants and added many programs. The library now works with the Westville Schools for their Accelerated Reader program and Purdue Northwest with their early childhood education students.


Posted 10/8/2019




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