County treasurers are in charge of collecting taxes, which usually means they’re not the most popular elected officials. In Shoshone County, though, the treasurer’s race is getting all the attention.
That’s because it is the only county office in the May 23 primary election that is being contested.
Ellen Sauer is seeking to keep her job but faces a challenge from fellow Democrat Melba Bencich. Sauer has been treasurer since 1998.
Bencich, who holds a supervisory clerical job at a local business, is making her second try for the job – she ran unsuccessfully in 1982.
“I’m ready for change,” she said. “The (Silver) Valley is going through these changes – I want to be a small part of it.”
The treasurer’s main task is collecting and managing tax receipts for the county. But the elected official also serves as chief investment officer and handles the estates of deceased residents with no wills or heirs.
With only one other full-time and one half-time position in the office to help with those duties, the Sho-shone County treasurer must be adept at balancing a variety of tasks, Sauer said. She said she is working to streamline the office by overseeing a new tax-collection and management computer system.
As the county grows, the treasurer must handle a growing workload, Sauer said. Sauer’s office has never failed an outside audit. Last year, the county collected $10.1 million in taxes.
Sauer said her experience and track record will help keep the county’s tax-collection system running smoothly. “It’s going to take dedicated, experienced leadership to help the Valley reach its potential,” Sauer said.
Sauer has been awarded a number of professional designations. Last year, she was awarded the designation, Certified Finance Executive, through North Idaho College and the Idaho Association of County Treasurers.
Bencich offered no direct criticism of Sauer’s performance. But she said voters deserve to have a choice and said she has the skills to do the job.
Previously, Bencich worked for a bank, “back in those days when we balanced debits and credits manually,” she said.
In her current position as document-control supervisor for SVL Analytical, Bencich verifies reports, balances invoices and helps the business prepare for audits. She has worked for the Kellogg business for 18 years and has met deadlines.
“I’ve always taken pride in my work, and I will stay until the job is done,” Bencich said.
When Bencich was asked what her top priority would be if elected, she said she has no specific changes in mind. “I just want to work for the county. I want to work for the people.”
Sauer said she wants to continue what she has started.
“I meet deadlines; I understand the entire tax system,” she said. “I work very hard at saving county taxpayer dollars.”