Candidates for office of Haakon County Auditor

Three candidates are running for the office of Haakon County Auditor – Patricia G. Freeman, Gretchen Phillips, and incumbent Shirley Dennis.

All three candidates are running on the Republican ticket, thus only voters registered as Republicans may vote for them in the primary election, which will be June 6.

The last day that people may register in order to be able to vote in this election is Monday, May 22. As of the morning of May 9th, there were 1,536 registered voters in Haakon County. Of these, 1,179 are registered as Republican.

The primary election does include Democratic candidates running for state governor.

Patricia G. Freeman

Family: My father is the late Matthew (Mike) V. Schofield and my mother is Thelma Jean Schofield. I have five brothers: Matt, Michael, Brad, Wade and Jason. I have two sisters: Nancy Russell and Nina Richardson.

Area in which you live: City of Philip.

How long in area: When my father was elected sheriff in 1962, we moved to Philip from Midland. I graduated from Philip High School and taught country schools for four years. I moved away from 1971 to 1979, then returned home to Philip until 2002. I transferred to Fairbanks, AK, until 2005, at which time I retired from the Farm Service Agency, and returned to live in Philip.

Related activities, experience or skills: Working for the FSA for 21 years in Haakon County, I came to know a lot of the farmers and ranchers in the area. FSA has a County Committee that made decisions on various activities and it was my responsibility to provide them with information to assist them in making the required determinations. I have worked with administrative duties, such as county office budget, payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable and banking. There were many reports to be made to our state office that required reconciliation and accuracy. Knowledge of computers and other office equipment was required. The most enjoyable aspect of the job was working with the public.

Plans, changes or ideas, if elected: As with any new job, there are many things that must be learned. I am very excited about the possibility of working with the Haakon County Commissioners, staff and residents of Haakon County. The plan is to work together with all those involved, listening to suggested changes and ideas as they evolve and to dedicate my time and energy to doing the best possible job while serving Haakon County.

Why are you the best candidate? I feel I am the best candidate because of my past experience with the operations of government, dealing with bureaus, working with the public and my sincere desire to work towards helping Haakon County run as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

What are your top strengths for this position:? While working for the Farm Service Agency, I received several awards and was promoted each time I was eligible. Awards included receiving a Quality Step Increase for job performance of duty above normal requirements during a period of unusually high activity (1991), Professional Improvement Awards (1994 and 1997), Extra Effort Award (1997), Cash Award for Job Performance (2004). In other words, you do what it takes to do the best job possible.

Gretchen Phillips

Family: I have been married to Gary for 35 years and we have two sons; Nicholas, 30-years-old, is a computer engineer in Longmont, CO, and Nathan, 28-years-old, is a telecommunications technician in Brookings.

Area in which you live: City of Philip.

How long in area: We have lived in Philip for 27 years.

Related activities, experience or skills: My degree in business from BHSU led me to 25 plus years of office experience of which 19 years were spent as Elementary Secretary to Haakon County 27-1 School District.

I am familiar with the type of financial structure the county uses. My experience in the school district working within budget constraints and their usage of cash basis fund accounting is similar to what the county uses.

An example of my experience would be that part of my responsibility at school was to determine the cost of books and supplies for the elementary budget. This process took me through requisitions from the staff, compiling those requisitions, yearly inventorying of books and supplies, finding current replacement costs, working with budget constraints through the administration, to sending the final purchase order to the vendors. The process wound down with check-in, back orders, and distribution of materials according to what the staff member had requisitioned. This process started in January and the purchase orders were sent by June.

In addition, I worked with the patrons of the district, students, as well as with administration, staff, vendors, and any other person who needed information.

I worked with various computer programs and was administrator of two elementary grading programs during my tenure at school. This involved installing the programs and in essence getting the teaching staff up to speed so they could use the programs from their elementary school locations.

My most recent experience has been with the Haakon County Treasurer as the Clerk from May 2003 through December 2005. This job gave me background with property taxes and motor vehicle titling and registering. I have a good understanding of the treasurer's office and how it functions in relationship to the auditor's office.

I have also been in a position where I supervised 22 people as a Food Service Supervisor in a 180 bed hospital/nursing home. I ordered all the food and supplies according to set menus and planned special events such as the monthly doctor's dinner, again, working with budgets and people.

Plans, changes, or ideas if elected: I probably would make no immediate changes unless the State or the County Commissioners instructed me to. My philosophy would be to TRY to work with what is in place for the first year, then if there are areas that in my estimation could be improved upon, discuss this with the commissioners and go from there.

Why are you the best candidate? I feel I am a strong believer in seeking out resources, whether it is people or materials. You can always find out what you need to know by using good resources and I think I already have a strong bank of resources for this job – and that is people.

I've already established a dialogue with the Butte County Auditor and her deputy. I contacted and spent time with the them because I wanted to see how accessible these resources were. That's not to discount the people we have right in our own community and on the state level that I am sure would be willing to be a resource.

I believe,"You're only as good as the people around you."

What are your top strengths for this position? I've outlined some of my life's experiences which I would categorize as strengths, but I can't express enough how important I think it is to be able to brainstorm with the people you work with and draw upon the experiences they have had in their jobs and in their lives. Respecting the gifts and talents of the people around you is one of my strengths.

Shirley Dennis

Family: I have been married to my husband, George, for the past 44 years and we have three children: daughter Sherry and her husband and three children live in Virginia, son Lee and his wife and four kids live in Philip, and son Kirk and his wife and two kids in Piedmont. We have grandchildren in college and grandchildren in diapers; for a total of 10 – one of which is a “great.”

Area in which you live: approximately 1-1/2 miles west of Philip.

How long in area: I would say that I have lived in this area most of my life, as I was raised on a ranch at the mouth of the Cheyenne River in Stanley County. I have lived in Haakon County since the spring of 1972.

Related activities, experience or skills: I feel that I have gained experience and skills with every position that I have held. I have worked for construction companies, as a B-52 Clerk for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and as an administrative assistant for Production Credit Association. I worked for FSA for a time in the set-aside program and also helped with the maps. I worked in the bookkeeping and loan areas of the First National Bank in Philip. I also worked for Fitzgerald Oil Company, where I did all areas of bookkeeping, which included payroll, accounts receivable and payable, inventory, fuel taxes, etc. that were done on a monthly basis, helping clients with gas tax refunds and many more duties. I have also done payroll and federal reports, plus keeping books for several different businesses out of my home in past years.

Plans, changes or ideas if elected: For the most part, the duties of the auditor are pretty much cut and dried. I will continue with changes in process which are ongoing, such as election changes, software program updates and state codified law changes as they are made. We are living in a time of many changes, which in turn change the way things are looked at and that lead to changes in the office which are not always met with a smile. I would like the taxpayers to feel free to come in or call the office with any questions they might have. If I don’t have the answer, I will get it. This would curb a lot of misinformation that goes around.

Why are you the best candidate? I feel that I am the best candidate as I have had many years of experience in varied areas of business and have met people from all walks of life. I enjoy people, and remember that the taxpayers of Haakon County are my employer.

What are your top strengths for this position: I feel that my top strength for this office would first of all be my integrity, followed by having served over three years in the position to date. I feel that treating the residents of our county with respect and a smile never hurts, and it’s enjoyable.