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Revenue and interest: Big crowd turns out for Lee County treasurer forum

DIXON – The two Republican candidates vying for the Lee County Treasurer’s seat weighed in on the issues facing the county and their top priorities for the office.

Dixon Finance Director Paula Meyer and Lee County Chief Deputy Treasurer Melissa Lawrence will be competing on the March 20 primary ballot to fill the position of longtime Treasurer John Fritts, who announced he would not be seeking a seventh term in September.

The two weighed in at a candidate forum, which drew about 75 people Wednesday and was hosted by the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and Main Street at the Post House Ballroom.

Meyer, 53, has been an accountant for 27 years and started her 22-year run working in government finance as Sauk’s controller in 1995. She joined the city’s ranks about 5 years ago following the $53.7 million Rita Crundwell embezzlement, leaving her job as dean of business services at Sauk Valley Community College.

Lawrence, 35, has worked in the treasurer’s office for about 13 years and became chief deputy a year ago. She has drafted the county budget the past few years, and Fritts endorsed her run in September.

Both agreed that the biggest challenge facing the county is generating more revenue, and their role would be to give county staff and board members sound data to make decisions.

Lawrence said she’s already familiar with running the office and doesn’t see much in the way of changes needing to be made, except to keep up with more efficient technology and software.

Meyer said she would bring the longterm financial forecasting she does with the city to the county to better gauge and prepare for tough economic times in the tax-capped county.

It is crucial that those in government finance positions have the know-how and experience to account for public money, she said.

“They are the keepers of the taxpayers’ dollars, and having somebody in there that really understands how that is supposed to work is invaluable to making sure those dollars are spent appropriately,” Meyer said.

The office also requires a leader with compassion who is comfortable addressing residents’ concerns and keeping operations running smoothly day-to-day, Lawrence said.

“The role is not determined by their education or certificate but rather by a person with passion for serving the public who keeps their constitutes at heart and are always looking for ways to efficiently improve services,” Lawrence said.

Meyer lives on a farm in southwest Lee County, about 5 miles outside of Amboy, with her husband, Don, and she earned her master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. They have two children, Eva and Paul.

Lawrence grew up in Ashton, earned her associate degree in accounting at Sauk Valley Community College and moved to Dixon 13 years ago. She has two sons, Payton and Brady.

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