In the municipal
election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Republican Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie
Kuziela will face a challenge from Democrat Courtney Udvare. The
Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to a candidate questionnaire.
reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) For Kuziela:
Age, number of terms in office. 31. I have served one and a half terms.
I am currently serving my first elected term, after having served the last
two years of my predecessorís term following her retirement.
For Udvare: Age,
occupation. 34 years old. Director of the Westville-New Durham Township
(2) Describe the
Clerk-Treasurerís responsibilities and your qualifications for the position
Office of the Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of the town's records and
finances. The town records include all contracts, minutes, and ordinances.
One of our fellow residents dubbed me ďa handmaiden of historyĒ in my quest
to preserve our minutes and ordinances from 1899 to present. The
Clerk-Treasurer also serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the town. As
such, the Clerk-Treasurer prepares and certifies the annual budget, performs
all state reporting, and is in charge of all receipts and disbursements,
including payroll and investment management. Expenditures are made upon
approval of the Town Council. I am also responsible for administering oaths
of office and issuing all licenses authorized by statute.
Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of maintaining the townís financials. He/she
creates the budget; manages payroll, accounts receivable/payable, financial
reporting, and record maintaining. Additionally he/she keeps up to date on
the latest changes to financial regulations. As a Library Director I have
been doing all of these for the last eight years. I also have experience
working with a board, interacting with the State Board of Accounts,
Department of Local Government Finance, and managing employees.
(3) For Kuziela:
Why are you running for re-election as Clerk-Treasurer? (75 words) I
hope to finish what I started which is a lasting legacy of fiscal
responsibility for future generations. Our community is growing rapidly
which brings a constantly changing tax environment. Due to changes in
legislation, such as property tax caps and changes in state regulations, we
need to be more creative in funding Town Council mandated projects. I would
like to see through the continued digitizing of records, and internal
control policy updates.
For Udvare: Why are
you running for election as Clerk-Treasurer? (75 words) As a lifelong
resident, Iím running for Clerk-Treasurer to ensure our townís finances are
well-tended and secure. The townís future is my future. Our town and its
employees deserve to feel the person managing the budget, along with
employee payroll and benefits, cares about getting it right every time. Iím
experienced in finance, budgeting, management, and training. Iím ready to
take on the responsibilities of the Clerk-Treasurer and serve our community.
(4) For Kuziela:
What specific skill sets have you brought to the position? (75 words)
Adaptability, planning, organizational, creativity, customer service,
leadership, team building, accountability, information gathering, mentoring,
and analysis. While utilizing those skills, I have developed a team of
dedicated staff with unique perspectives and backgrounds where we complement
each otherís knowledge in our operations.
For Udvare: What
specific skill sets would you bring to the position? (75 words) I am
experienced in almost all the duties required of the Clerk-Treasurer. I have
a record of being well organized and thorough with the ability to be aware
of the changing codes, regulations, and expectations of the role. I know
what itís like to serve a community and take pride in what I do. Iíve loved
working with numbers since studying for my bachelors at Purdue North
Central. I am experienced in managing employees.
yourself from your opponent and explain why you consider yourself to be the
stronger candidate (100 words).
Experience. Clerk-Treasurer is a complex and difficult office for anyone to
come into without having direct experience. I trained under Clerk-Treasurer
Gayle Polakowski for two years before being honored by succeeding her and
now have ten years of extensive experience. I have earned two Bachelor of
Science Degrees in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership and
Supervision. I am currently working on my Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in
Accountancy at Indiana University Northwest. These classes will count
towards my accounting requirement for the CPA exam.
Udvare: While I
do not personally know my opponent, I believe I am a perfect fit for the
position based on my long standing and current role. I am very familiar with
the web-based budget program currently used by the town. Iím also familiar
with the financial reporting system used for budgets and transparency by
Indiana State government I am always eager to learn. I am thorough,
professional, and pride myself in my attention to the details. Whatever
position I am in, I am fully committed in my time and effort into making it
the best it can be.
(6) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
sure the townís finances are being managed in a responsible manner. Some of
the things I've been working on in addition to the finances include
improving government transparency, updating the town information technology
to include cyber security/training, and internal controls oversight. If
re-elected, my office will strive to have town business more easily
available to the public. There are too many local units of government that
have fallen prey to hackers at a considerable cost to the taxpayer. The Town
Manager and I are currently working on solutions to enhance the townís IT
security. The internal control policies will continue to be tested and
improved to be in alignment with the Indiana State Board of Accounts
Udvare: Some of
the key issues in the race are accountability and accuracy. The
Clerk-Treasurer is in charge of the town financials. Any mistake made has
the ability to impact the entire town in a variety of ways. While things do
happen, the Clerk-Treasurer needs to do everything in his/her power to
prevent errors. It could be something as simple as attending training
sessions offered by the state. The Clerk-Treasurer needs to be accountable
and constantly be striving to improve. Other key issues are ensuring the
town is financially ready to implement all of the recent larger scale
projects it wishes and execute the next comprehensive plan.
(7) For Kuziela: In
April 2017, you announced to the Town Council that, owing to a mistake in
your office, there would be a shortfall of approximately $800,000 in the
General Fund, necessitating what you called at the time ďprudent expenditure
decisions in an attempt to mitigate the shortfall.Ē Can you explain exactly
how this mistake occurred and do you take responsibility for it? (150
words). I mistakenly included the debt levies as part of the maximum
levy concerning the 2017 budget. By doing so, the Chesterton property owners
were not taxed as high a rate as they could have been, therefore, we did not
collect the maximum amount of taxes allowed. I have and always will take
full responsibility for this mistake. I developed solutions individually and
worked with each of the Town Council members to ensure it would not happen
again. Despite the fact that taxpayers did not pay as much as they could
have, the town did not miss a beat without any services being cut. This is
because of sound financial planning between the Town Council and my office.
I have always been committed to performing my duties with the highest level
of competence and integrity.
Chesterton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141—which has made no secret of
its dissatisfaction with the incumbent—endorsed your candidacy for
Clerk-Treasurer within days of your filing. What can you say to assure
voters that youíre neither a one-issue candidate nor would you be a
one-department Clerk-Treasurer? (150 words) While I was fortunate to get
an early endorsement from the Chesterton Fraternal Order of Police, I have
been in contact with several other departments and town officials. I feel
strongly that the Clerk-Treasurer must serve everyone equally and without
bias. As someone who wants what is best for Chesterton, I look forward to
working with every department to address every issue that our community
(8) For Kuziela:
What measures have you taken to ensure that this mistake or similar ones
donít occur again? (75 words) I pledged and have implemented personal
procedures to minimize the chance of anything like this happening again.
Internally, I have instituted cross training policies for my deputy to fully
comprehend and cross check my entries on budget matters. Additionally, the
town has an excellent financial advisor in Ted Sommer of London Witte and
his firm who annually reviews my property tax and tax cap calculations.