The primary election for the Flathead County clerk and recorder is one of the most contested local races this year.
With current clerk and recorder Paula Robinson not seeking a fourth four-year term, the open seat pulled in four GOP candidates for whom the election will most likely be determined after the primary vote on June 3.
The candidates are Debbie Pierson, Char Terry Sherman, Corey Pilsch, and Rebekah “Becky” Eslick Savelle.
Barring a write-in candidate taking the seat, the June vote will determine who is the next to manage the clerk and recorder office, the plat room surveying office, the election department, the historical preservation office, and serve as the county’s auditor.
As the county’s current grant writer, Debbie Pierson said she chose to run for the clerk and recorder position because she saw an opportunity to further serve the residents in the Flathead.
“I’ve lived here for more than 36 years,” Pierson said. “It’s my home. I feel like it’s important to continue moving the department forward, so I think it’s important to get someone in there with skill and experience.”
Pierson, 48, said her experience as the grant writer and previous work as the director of development for Special Olympics of Montana would transfer well to the clerk and recorder position, because she’s had to manage budgets and hundreds of volunteers.
As a graduate of Flathead High School and the University of Montana, Pierson believes she has the educational background for the job, and the management skills from 25 years of professional experience, including time at the United Way and Red Cross.
Pierson also believes her current 20-hour work week with the county would be an advantage if she’s elected, because she will have the time to learn from the current clerk and recorder before taking office in January.
“I’m already wired into being an employee of the county,” Pierson said. “And I just think it helps me to understand the dynamics of the position.”
Char Terry Sherman
For Char Terry Sherman, working with the Flathead County clerk and recorder’s office began as an opportunity in 1998, when she saw a notice for an open position within the office.
She had been working at a title company in Kalispell, and through that job became familiar with the ins and outs of the recording process, she said, and jumped at the chance to work there.
“I loved working there at the clerk and recorder’s office; I was there for seven-and-a-half years,” Sherman said.
Now, Sherman, 56, hopes to get back into the office she worked in from 1998 to 2005. She managed current clerk and recorder Paula Robinson’s first campaign to get into office, and has experience recruiting volunteers through her work with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and Habitat for Humanity.
Sherman has also worked with Relay for Life, mentored with a foster care program and volunteered for local recovery services for 19 years.
Her work in the clerk and recorder’s office included being part of the interviewing and training team, and her business management degree and financial counseling certificate would serve her well in the office, Sherman said.
Otherwise, her goal would be to manage the offices in such a way as to promote positive encounters with the public.
“One of my goals is to be the friendliest office in the county,” Sherman said. “I really believe everybody should be treated well and treated as an equal.”
In running for the clerk and recorder position, Corey Pilsch hopes to lay the groundwork for future political opportunities. Though he loves his job as foreman for the Flathead County road department’s crew, he sees this election as a chance to continue growing.
“I enjoy the challenge of making things better,” Pilsch said. “This election is a natural step for me.”
Pilsch, 44, has worked for the county for almost 13 years, starting as a truck driver, then becoming a right-of-way specialist and foreman for the crusher. In his current position, Pilsch said he manages a $1.39 million budget, as well as 12 crew members.
“Managing a budget that size is definitely a qualification,” he said. “ We have left money on the table in our budget and haven’t been over in six years.”
Earlier in his career, Pilsch managed convenience stores. He went to high school in the Flathead, and played football for the University of Montana.
The position he’s seeking will have a lot of responsibilities, Pilsch said, and he is certain there will be a big learning curve for some of those new duties. He said he’s confident he will be able to adapt, because he manages people and machines for the county already.
Otherwise, Pilsch said he would be a positive influence in the office, and can help build an atmosphere where people want to come to work.
“I’d really just like it to be a fun place to work,” he said. “I really feel like I’m able to do that and help in that situation.”
Rebekah “Becky” Eslick Savelle
When she retired from the clerk and recorder’s office eight years ago after working there for 25 years, Rebekah “Becky” Eslick Savelle stayed busy.
She ran for the clerk and recorder’s position four years ago, and since then has kept her skills fresh through various jobs. Most recently, Savelle chose to work with a local temping agency, so if she’s elected she won’t be leaving a permanent employer in the lurch.
Savelle, 57, said her 25 years of experience in the clerk and recorder’s office would be of benefit for her if she’s elected, because she understands the processes and the responsibilities of the position.
“I know things change, especially technology,” she said. “It’ll be a learning curve, but I have some of the groundwork under me because I was there for so long.”
While working for the county, Savelle spent two years in the plat room, and had supervisory responsibilities as well. She also helped Paula Robinson develop the county’s record center.
Since the position will require plenty of interaction with the public, Savelle said she would be comfortable doing so, and has experience working with people of all different backgrounds.
She also has established, professional relationships within the county departments, which would make her transition into office easier than someone just starting fresh, Savelle said.
Savelle said she doesn’t have any major changes in mind for the offices she’d be responsible for if she’s elected, but she intends on going in with an open mind.
“I think anybody who gets in there is going to bring their own flavor to the job, and until you get there you don’t know what you’re working with,” she said.
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