Editor's note: Sauk Valley Media presents a series of guest columns by candidates in key contested races in the March 20 primary election. Candidates were invited to write up to 500 words about why voters should support them. Today's race: Lee County treasurer.
My name is Melissa Lawrence. I grew up in Ashton, graduated from Ashton High School in 2000, and continued my education at Sauk Valley Community College, where I earned my associate degree in accounting. I moved to Dixon in 2004, where I have raised my two amazing sons, Payton and Brady.
In 2005, I was hired by John Fritts as a deputy in the treasurer’s office and to fulfill the bookkeeping position. During my tenure, John Fritts believed that I was knowledgeable and capable of holding the role of investment officer and chief deputy.
Other roles that I hold at the county are budget analyst, finance chairman of the law enforcement project, and financial compliance officer for Veterans Grants and Violence Against Women.
Many ask what the role of the treasurer is. This role should not be determined solely by their education or professional certificates, but rather by a person who has passion for serving the public and keeps their constituents at heart while always looking for ways to efficiently improve service.
With more than 13 years in the office, I have learned to be compassionate with a struggling homeowner and to explain to them what will happen if their taxes go unpaid.
I have been more than willing to teach and share my knowledge with any of my professional colleagues. I have always had an open door and approachable personality with anyone who has needed assistance with any task at hand.
Our current treasurer, John Fritts, has taught me, and as the investment officer, I have learned that it is important to give local financial institutions the opportunity to invest in your county tax dollars. Keeping your tax dollars invested locally builds our communities.
This past year, I led Lee County to the highest bond rating a county of our size could receive of an AA2. This rating gave us the opportunity to purchase the bonds for the law enforcement project at a competitive interest rate of 3.22 percent for a 20-year fixed rate.
The state’s attorney and I have written an accounting and procedure manual to meet the internal controls and transparency required for the treasurer’s office and county to meet all federal guidelines for funding. Through this process, we expeditiously addressed audit findings centered on the need to segregate duties among staff and across departments.
John Fritts and I have been implementing new technology and efficiency within the office, and I will continue with these advancements when elected.
The Lee County Treasurer’s Office has long prided itself on customer service and a strong focus on fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers. John’s humble heart with all taxpayers and his sincere focus on the citizens of Lee County will continue through when you elect me as your next Lee County treasurer.
Occupation: Chief deputy treasurer, Lee County
Education: Sauk Valley Community College, associate degree in accounting
Experience: Deputy treasurer, Lee County (2005-17), chief deputy since March 2017