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Athens County Treasurer Democratic Primary candidates participate in forum

The League of Women’s Voters hosted a candidate forum for the Athens County Treasurer Democratic Primary Tuesday evening at the Athens Community Center. The forum hosted candidates such as Athens City Council Councilmember Beth Clodfelter, D-At Large, and Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington. 

Clodfelter started her opening statement by explaining her prior time working under Sen. Sherrod Brown. She said after working for him, she realized the people she wanted to serve were those who reside in Athens County. She concluded by indicating she is an honest and ethical person. 

“I represented (Brown) in 25 counties in Appalachia Ohio, which allowed me to really get to know our region and meet a variety of community leaders in each one of those 25 counties,” Clodfelter said. “But it also took me away from Athens more than I wanted.”

Sappington followed with his opening statement, focusing on his experience with Nelsonville City Council and as City Auditor. He said when he joined the council in 2015, the city had significant financial struggles, which prompted him to co-sponsor the balanced budget ordinance to help the city’s financial state. 

“It was impressed upon me by the power of sunshine on government finances in that moment because once that ordinance hit the floor, it passed 5-2,” Sappington said. “That was my first accomplishment on city council.”

The first question inquired why the candidates are running for the treasurer positions given their current city positions and how it will affect their current positions.  

Sappington said he has the most experience in government finance. He partially credited his knowledge to his education at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service.

“I believe that combined, my time in the auditor’s office and my education have really been a consistent building of both my resume and my experience to where I could do this job effectively,” Sappington said. “I could do this job collaboratively and efficiently.” 

Clodfelter said in the past, she briefly worked with the Athens County Treasurer’s Office and realized she enjoyed her time helping those in the office. 

“I knew years ago, when I did that, that it was an office I really liked and would like to be a part of,” Clodfelter said.

Clodfelter said the treasurer position starts in September 2025, which is 10 months after the November 2024 council election. She said the council already knows she is running for the treasurer position.

“I think it would be really good because the Athens County Democratic Party could appoint someone to finish my seat,” Clodfelter said. “That person could have a bit of an advantage in the November election if he or she is already running in 2025.”

Another question sent in by the public asked what changes the candidates would make to tax collection within the county.

Sappington said in some ways, the Treasurer’s Office is limited in its collection capacities, but he wants to implement a personal touch, which he has done as City Auditor.

“What I want to do is make those phone calls (and) mail the folks myself. Make those phone calls myself and say, ‘The county treasurer is reaching out to you,’” Sappington said. “We allow them some dignity when they don’t have the cash at that moment to pay.” 

Clodfelter said she wants the office to remain respectful and compassionate toward people with difficulty paying. She said she wants to look into a government app to allow people to pay their property taxes on their phones. However, she noted some people still choose a more traditional method to pay their taxes, and she offered a different solution.

“I think one solution that can make things much easier for people that hand deliver their letters would be to set up a dropbox, much like the board of elections has for ballots and the city building has for water bills,” Clodfelter said.

Both candidates shared the same positive sentiment regarding the Land Bank – which acquires and repurposes abandoned properties in Athens County to make them available to residents –  believing it has positive implications for Athens County. Sappington said the Land Bank is his top issue, and he wants to ensure that it doesn’t suffer, but grows.

Sappington started his closing statement by sharing his commitment to holding people accountable. He said what distinguishes him from Clodfelter is his years of experience as a City Auditor and his education.

“I'm ready on day one,” he said. “There won't be a learning curve. And frankly, the results of my service show that I will do a great job if the voters give me the chance.”

Clodfelter’s closing statement included a goal of modernizing how residents pay property taxes, wanting to make it more convenient. She said she is excited to work more on the county’s $30 million investment portfolio and studying those funds. Clodfelter said she has two endorsements: Matriots Ohio and current Athens County Treasurer Ric Wasserman.

“I'm really working hard to learn this position in the hopes that I will earn your votes and get to serve as your county treasurer, and if so, I promise I will be ready on day one,” Clodfelter said.


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