Clerk and Recorder candidate: Sandra Merchant

Name: Sandra Merchant

Age: (did not answer)

Occupation: Medical coder

Party affiliation: Republican

Experience relevant to position sought: Business office, business owner, organization of programs/events/groups, teaching, public service/volunteering, customer service, etc.

Campaign website/social media accounts, if applicable:  Campaign websiteIMG_2710 (1)

Q: Why are you running for clerk and recorder/elections official?

A: I am a concerned citizen who believes oversight by the people is necessary to keep the government accountable. That is how our country was set up to operate. I believe in following the law. I also have private sector experience that can be applied to the office to improve communications with the public and efficiency of the office. I believe I can make some positive changes.

Q: What do you believe is the role of the county clerk and recorder/elections official?

A: The Clerk and Recorder’s office, among other things, records real estate and personal property documents, plats, surveys, vital records like birth and death certificates; maintains accounting and financial reporting for the county, accounts payable and fixed asset control; and prepares and administers local elections. I do not believe the person who oversees accounting should be the same person overseeing auditing. Since the office of surveyor was combined with the clerk, the clerk is not required to be a surveyor but oversees the contracting of surveyors when necessary.

Q: What do you believe are the top three challenges facing Cascade County?

A: Lack of confidence in local government and the election process; more access for citizens; financial-accountability, budgeting, and taxes.

Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities and how would you accomplish those goals?

A: To get the training provided by the Secretary of State and Montana Association of Counties; be sure we have enough qualified people in addition to those that are already there and that they have what they need to do their jobs; to establish relationships with people and businesses that work with the clerk; and to create an atmosphere of openness and welcome the citizens when they come to the office.

Q: If elected, what do you believe you bring to the role of clerk and recorder/elections official?

A: Private sector business experience, a willingness to be open to questions & find answers, customer service, teaching experience, ability to work with others, and an attitude of being a public servant.

Q: How would you conduct public outreach on controversial matters before the county, or to promote a general understanding of the county’s public process related to the clerk and recorder/elections office?

A: There are requirements for public notices but I would like to go beyond that, the needs of the public in any given situation determining the best way of communicating. As far as general understanding of the office, if people have questions they are welcome to come in and ask them without hindrance; I will do my best to answer-or to find an answer. Meetings or training would be offered if necessary. I would be working for the people.

Q: How would you manage the many tasks of the clerk and recorder’s office as well as oversee the elections office to ensure smooth and secure elections?

A: I would be involved in both the records aspect as well as the elections, working with the staff in both areas. Both are important. There are some good, reliable people already there and we will work together to improve the processes and timeliness of both records and elections, providing correct information the first time.

Q: How would you work with the public, officials and data to determine fact from fiction in related to elections security?

A: Research is necessary to ensure correct facts. I would use- and reference-many reliable sources which would help with accuracy and transparency of information given by the office.

Q: How would you approach the budget process within your office to ensure the county is making the best use of taxpayer dollars?

A: I believe in balanced budgeting and would work to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely. The local governmment works for the people and should always keep that in mind. I would balance the staffing so that there aren’t people with nothing to do and cross train staff so they can fill in if there is a temporary need in another area.

Q: What do you envision your working relationship with county staff would look like?

A: I would like to establish good relationships with staff, to get to know them and be able to communicate with them even if we don’t agree. I will visit different areas to get to know them, what they do, and what they need from the clerk’s office in order to better meet those needs.

Q: Any additional comments on your plans if elected (but please be concise)?

A: My experience is not in government. A clerk and recorder doesn’t have experience as a clerk and recorder before being elected (as was also the case with my opponent), which is why there is training offered by both the Secretary of State and the Montana Association of Counties focusing on newly elected clerks. I look forward to taking those trainings and combining my private sector experience with them to make the office efficient, transparent, secure, and customer friendly. I think we need a fresh perspective, a real-world outlook, something that is not just government as usual!