SHIRLEY — In a three-way race for Shirley clerk-treasurer, independent candidate Teresa Hester defeated her opponents, Republican Kassandra Jessup and independent Debbie Duke, Tuesday with 58 percent of the vote.
Though Hester, a first-time candidate, said she spent much of Election Day anxiously awaiting results, her trepidation was met by a wave of relief Tuesday night at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex, where candidates gathered as vote totals were posted.
“It was really nerve-racking, but it feels great to know things worked out,” said Hester, who received 71 votes to Duke’s 40 and Jessup’s 11.
Hester will succeed former clerk-treasurer Marla Kemerly, who served five terms in the position but decided not to seek re-election after the Indiana State Board of Accounts was critical of her bookkeeping. The position paid about $30,100 in 2014.
Hester, 57, has lived in Shirley, a town of about 800, for almost her entire life. A member of the Shirley Community Visionaries, a group of residents dedicated to bettering the town, Hester ran her campaign on a promise to help make the town more attractive and welcoming.
The clerk-treasurer is charged with overseeing the town’s finances. The advertised budget for Shirley in 2016 is approximately $618,000.
The clerk also authorizes payroll for town employees, pays the town’s bills and oversees the budget process. Additionally, the clerk also is responsible for keeping minutes from town council meetings and managing town records.
Hester is married to Wendell Hester, and they have three children and four grandsons.
During her campaign, Hester said she hopes to identify more grants the town can apply for.
Shirley, which straddles the Henry County border, has no state highway running through it, and its decreasing population has been marked as low- to moderate-income.
Despite those barriers, Hester said the town is experiencing a resurgence, and it’s important to maintain the momentum.
“We’re trying to ramp things up and make the town a more desirable community for people to visit and be a part of,” Hester said.
Though Kemerly held the office since 1980, Hester said she expects to quickly acclimate to the processes and duties required of the position.
Despite her loss, Jessup, who finished third in the race, wished Hester the best.
“I worked really hard, but I know (Hester) will make a great clerk-treasurer,” Jessup said, adding that she would consider running for the office again in the future. “I learned a lot, and there aren’t any hard feelings.”
Duke, who also ran for the office in 2011 and lost, said she reached out to Hester on Tuesday night after hearing of the election results to congratulate her on her victory.
Duke said she’s unsure whether she’ll seek office in the future.
Teresa Hester, I;71
Debbie Duke, I;40
Kassandra Jessup, R;11