In the general
election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Democrat incumbent Porter County Auditor Vicki
Urbanik will face a challenge from Republican Karen Martin. The
Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) For Urbanik:
Age, place of residence, term in office: 55; Morgan Township; one term.
For Martin: Age,
place of residence, occupation: 63; Valparaiso; Porter County Clerk of
(2) Describe the
Porter County Auditor’s responsibilities (75 words).
auditors are the county government’s chief fiscal officers, providing
accounting and auditing services and tax administration duties. County
auditors oversee one of the busiest county offices and are responsible for
applying tax deductions, calculating real property abatements, administering
tax increment financing, certifying net assessed values, preparing budgetary
reports, distributing excise, property and local income taxes, preparing
annual financial reports, auditing and processing claims, receipting
revenues, and processing payroll, among many other duties.
County Auditor is the fiscal officer and works closely with all departments.
One of the functions is to keep accurate records for all appropriations made
by the Council. The Auditor verifies all claims are properly processed and
certified. Preparing, preserving, and maintaining tax duplicates is an
important process of the Auditor. The Auditor is also the Clerk for the
Commissioners and Council, keeping records and providing information.
(3) For Urbanik:
Why are you seeking re-election to the Office of Auditor? (75 words) I
am seeking re-election to my second and final term as County Auditor to
expand on the significant progress we’ve made enhancing the county’s
finances through proper fiscal management, providing taxpayer outreach and
collaboration with local government units, and implementing initiatives that
promote efficient services, transparency, and the highest level of ethics in
local government. As a CPA, I have the professional credentials and
accounting experience needed to keep the Auditor’s Office running
It is imperative that the
Auditor provide accurate information in a timely fashion to the public and
departments while keeping individuals aware of changes and assisting them in
their requests. It is my opinion that communication is key in any changing
environment. Being a candidate for Auditor allows me the opportunity to
provide this service to the public. The knowledge and skills I possess will
enhance and improve this department.
(4) For Urbanik:
Describe your achievements in office (100 words). By assuming more
projects in-house despite a smaller staff size, we’ve so far saved $1
million in contractual costs while generating nearly $500,000 in new
revenue. We upgraded our financial systems and implemented the county’s
first timekeeping system, achieving greater accountability and transparency.
Our fiscal management efforts have helped stabilize previously eroding
funds, we’re typically one of the first counties to meet state deadlines,
and we have developed policies providing greater clarity and consistency.
Public outreach is a top priority, with taxpayer publications, a financial
literacy contest for kids, Coffee with the Clerks, and a veterans’ tax
For Martin: How
does serving as Porter County Clerk specifically qualify you to serve as
Auditor? (100 words) As the Clerk, we collect approximately $20 million
and distribute it accordingly. We must balance our accounts and prepare
budgets to reflect multiple areas of compliance. We collect money for the
Sheriff, Prosecutor, Probation, programs, county and state. We process
multiple checks on a daily basis. With implementation of new software, we
have given the public more access. Communicating with local and state
agencies is the key factors in accomplishing our tasks. The Clerk’s Office
also records, preserves, and maintains millions of records. The functions of
the Clerk’s Office are similar to the Auditor’s.
yourself from your opponent and indicate in particular why you believe
yourself to be a better candidate (100 words).
Urbanik: I have
accounting experience and professional credentials. I’m a Certified Public
Accountant (CPA), Certified Government Financial Manager, Level II Assessor,
Enrolled Agent tax professional, and former vice-president of the Property
Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. I enthusiastically signed the Northwest
Indiana Ethics Pledge and believe strongly that local officials should be
leaders promoting ethical government. I’m this year’s treasurer of the
Indiana Auditors’ Association. I have a strong anti-nepotism policy, a deep
commitment to improved internal controls, and an open door policy with
staff. I work cooperatively and in a bipartisan manner with all other office
Martin: My past
experience on the County Council as a member and president for eight years
gives me an understanding of the budget process and preparation necessary to
assist in accomplishing county goals through financing and money management.
As Clerk, I transformed the office from 42 full-time and ten part-time to 34
full-time and one part-time. My 2018 budget is less than my 2011 budget and
I returned hundreds of thousands dollars to the General Fund in addition to
providing quality service to the public. I believe in preserving the past
while preparing for the future.
(6) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
year, I was deeply honored to represent Porter County on the national stage
as recipient of the “Achievement of the Year” award from the Association of
Government Accountants. This award recognizes the considerable
accomplishments we have made promoting accountability and improved services
to taxpayers. The County Auditor can and should play a key role in advancing
good government, and we need to ensure that we retain an auditor who is
meticulous in her work product, provides proper fiscal management of tax
dollars, understands audits and implements audit findings, applies
consistency and fairness in tax and financial matters, and works in a
bipartisan manner with other county leaders for the betterment of our
county. I have the accounting knowledge and professional credentials needed
to build on the progress we have made, and I will continue to strive for
excellence in the Auditor’s Office. I believe the taxpayers deserve no less.
Processes need to be informative and streamlined. When changes are made
communication should be first and foremost to reduced the necessity of
duplicating work and delaying processes. When implementing new software,
research and preparation will be done in detail reviewing individuals needs.
Procedures need to be reviewed and followed. When individuals do not process
necessary transactions it causes additional work for many. Clarity on
requirements for processes needs to be addressed. We must also look at
options to prepare for situations that may occur, whether it be financially
(7) For Urbanik: If
re-elected Auditor, in what ways would you seek to improve service to Porter
County residents? (100 words) I pledge to continue working full-time as
your County Auditor. The Auditor’s job is complex and demanding, and I’m
just as passionate about the work as when I was first elected. My CPA
experience will be especially important as we implement GAAP-compliant
reporting, a new fund analysis project, and expanded public outreach. As
secretary of the Porter County Government Non-Profit Charitable Foundation,
I look forward to additional financial responsibilities as the Foundation
grows. I will continue doing the work voters elected me to do, not by
relying on consultants but by emphasizing teamwork and building our staff’s
For Martin: If
elected, what priorities would you pursue in the Auditor’s Office? (100
words) As Auditor, my priority would be to review practices and
procedures with the goal of streamlining when necessary and implementing
time management and accountability procedures. My experience as Clerk has
shown that there are duplicative processes that occur wasting time and
taxpayers money. We need to make sure that accuracy and detail are our
priority while preserving the integrity of the office. It seems that far too
often we add staff thinking it will resolve a problem when it actually masks
the problem. We need to get to the root of the problem and address it