GREENFIELD — The town of Shirley is set to have a new clerk-treasurer for the first time in two decades.
And the candidates seeking election on Nov. 3 are looking to grow and improve their community. The race pits Republican Kassandra Jessup and independents Teresa Hester and Debbie Duke, who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican against Clerk-Treasurer Marla Kemerly in 2011.
In 2011, Kemerly was elected to a fifth term as clerk-treasurer after the Indiana State Board of Accounts was critical of her bookkeeping; she’s not seeking re-election. The position paid about $30,100 in 2014.
Hester and Duke are longtime community members. Hester, 57, has lived in the community of about 800 her entire life and is seeking a way to be more involved. Duke, 51, has lived there nearly 20 years and said she loves her “little town” and wants to give back.
Jessup, 30, has lived in Shirley for three years. Even though she’s not a lifelong resident, she said, she loves the town and hopes to make the town’s budget more transparent if she’s elected.
All three candidates boast experience they say will serve them well in the office, which is charged with overseeing the town’s finances. The advertised budget for Shirley in 2016 is $617,863. Additionally, the clerk authorizes payroll for town employees, pays the town’s bills and oversees the budget process.
The clerk also keeps minutes of the town council’s meetings and keeps town records.
Though she is currently unemployed, Jessup previously worked as a paralegal. She described herself as organized, enthusiastic and most importantly friendly.
She’s married to county council member John Jessup, and they have six children.
If elected, she said, she hopes to help make residents more aware of the town’s finances and the budget process. To do that, records will need to be more transparent and easier to access, she said, and the clerk’s office will need to be more community-friendly.
“It’s difficult for citizens to be involved if they don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “The most important job of the town clerk-treasurer is to make sure the town is aware.”
Hester is a customer service representative at Star Financial Bank in Shirley. She’s married to Wendell Hester, and the couple have three children and four grandsons. Though she has no former political experience, she said she was moved to run for clerk-treasurer because she sees it as a way to help lift Shirley up.
She’s a member of the Shirley Community Visionaries, a group of residents dedicated to bettering the town by bringing together businesses, organizations and churches through a sense of community; and she wants the best for her neighbors, she said.
She has experience working in finance and accounting and said she’s also kept the books for various nonprofits.
“I love the small-town atmosphere. I love my home,” she said. “We want it to grow, and we want it to thrive.”
Duke, who is married to Jerry Duke and has one son, said she ran four years ago because she wants to be there for the people and the town, and that hasn’t changed. She said she’s involved in the community, works well with people and would be good at helping enhance the town and what it offers.
“I’m a very hard worker. I love helping people,” said Duke, who works at Covance in Greenfield. “I know I would give 100 percent.”
Duke said the main job of the town clerk-treasurer is to be available to the community.
“I think you need to show up to work every day, be there and give it your all,” she said. “I just want to be there for our town.”
All three said that, if elected, they hope to identify more grants the town can apply for. There are grants that would help restore building façades, provide extra funding to the volunteer fire department and liven up the town’s park, they said.
But mostly, they said they want to help the town move into the future while preserving its past.
The clerk-treasurer race is the only contest that will be on the ballot this election for Shirley residents, as there are no contested races for Shirley Town Council.
The last day for Hoosiers to register to vote for the Nov. 3 municipal election is Monday. Voters can register online at https://indianavoters.in.gov/PublicSite/OVR/Introduction.aspx or at the election office in the Hancock County Courthouse, 9 E. Main St., Greenfield.
Name: Kassandra Jessup
Family: Husband, John; six children
Political experience: None
Name: Debbie Duke
Family: Husband, Jerry; son Steven
Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for clerk-treasurer in 2011
Name: Teresa Hester
Family: Husband, Wendell; three children; four grandsons
Political experience: None