SYRACUSE – Two candidates besides the incumbent have thrown their hats into the ring for the position of Syracuse clerk-treasurer.

Virginia Freel Cazier is running on the Republican ticket against incumbent Paula Kehr-Wicker in the May 7 primary, and Tim Yeager is unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

Kehr-Wicker, a lifelong resident of Syracuse, said her family has lived and worked in Syracuse for four generations. She went through the Wawasee school system and then graduated from International Business College in Fort Wayne in 1994. Her husband, Robert, is a 25-year Navy veteran who works in the public sector. Their daughter, Emilia, is a sophomore at Ball State.

Kehr-Wicker has been a member of the Eagles Aerie 3760 Ladies Auxiliary for 20 years and a member of the American Legion Post 223 women’s auxiliary for 25 years. After college she worked in accounts payable and receivable before becoming employed in the clerk-treasurer’s office in 2001.

She began her term as clerk-treasurer on Jan. 1, 2016, after running unopposed. She is an accredited municipal clerk-treasurer certified by the Indiana League of Municipal Clerk-treasurers (ILMCT).

Freel Cazier was born in Warsaw and grew up in the Syracuse area. She graduated from Wawasee High School in 1988, then attended Ivy Tech and IPFW. She said she left college when she was offered a job at the Maple Leaf Farms. Her two children, Cassidy and Garret Freel, also graduated from Wawasee High School. She remarried last year to Joe Cazier. Cazier has worked for the last 22 years as administrative assistant to the director of the Syracuse public works department.

Freel-Cazier has served the community on the Syracuse Wellhead Protection Board, the Syracuse Tree Board and as a member of the Women of Today for seven years.

Yeager is a lifelong area resident who grew up on a dairy farm south of town. After graduating from the local high school, he went to Indiana University Bloomington and earned a master’s degree in education from Indiana University Fort Wayne.

Yeager put himself through college by starting a photography business. He also worked in movie theater management part-time while teaching school. He is a substitute teacher in the Wawasee school district.

Yeager served in a number of leadership positions in community organizations such as Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, Syracuse Lions and the Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary Club.

Each candidate was asked the following questions:

Why did you want to run?

Kehr-Wicker: “It was both a way to further serve my community and also it was a natural progression in my career path. In 2015 I had already worked in accounts payable and receivable in this office for the previous 14 years. I enjoy accounting as much as I love helping people.”

She said when the previous clerk, Julie Kline, decided to retire she spoke to her husband and daughter and they decided as a family that she should run.

Freel Cazier: “There are several reasons I wanted to run for the clerk-treasurer position. I have dedicated over 22 years as the administrative assistant to the director to the Town of Syracuse Public Works. I have extensive knowledge of our street, water and wastewater departments. I want to challenge myself in other areas of the town of Syracuse.

“I love serving the people in our community and wanted to continue working for the town. I have been asked many times throughout the last few years if I would be interested in running. If elected as clerk-treasurer, I will bring a professional, helpful and kind customer service to our community and co-workers. I will work diligently and faithfully to serve the people of Syracuse so they feel important and honored.”

Yeager: “In order for a representative democracy to function well, there needs to be choices for the electorate. While the duties of the clerk-treasurer are largely prescribed by law, voters need to decide, when given a choice, who should fill this position. The office of clerk-treasurer serves both the public, through the collection of utility receipts, and the town board by providing minutes of the meetings, filing municipal documents and doing the town’s bookkeeping.”

Yeager feels if elected that he “ought to give back to the community that has sustained him by providing quality service to the town’s citizenry through the office of clerk-treasurer.”

What qualifies you for the job?

Freel Cazier: “The clerk-treasurer’s position is to serve, listen and answer to the taxpayers of the town that has elected them. I have worked as the administrative assistant for 22 years. My job experience consists of communicating issues and concerns with our residents, dealing with contractors, water and sewer permits, invoicing, claim processing, balancing the public works budget on a monthly basis, dealing with Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on our monthly reports for water and wastewater and town council monthly reports and payroll.”

Yeager: “I’m precise and I think that’s important in a job like that. I owned my own business for a number of years and am familiar with financial aspects. I’ve served in legislative positions over the years as well as served as president for the chamber of commerce and other organizations. I attended many meetings of the town board and zoning meetings as a result of such duties.

“I think it’s important that the person doing the job accepts that they are doing the bidding of the town board and the state. It’s important that they communicate well with the public and are able to handle that tactfully.”

(To Kehr-Wicker) Why do you want to stay in the position?

“I find every day challenging. No two days are the same. When I can accomplish things to help members of my community or to further the goals of other town departments, I get that feeling of satisfaction one only gains from a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. For example, one project we’re working on is the repair and long-term maintenance of our flood control structure. I have a backseat part of that project but it’s an important part of working with the town council and various concerned residents in coming up with the funding to pay for it.

“Another project I enjoy working on annually is assisting the department heads with their budgets without going over our maximum tax levy. In both cases these are “behind the scenes” things the average person may not realize I do but affects each and every taxpayer in this community.”

What’s it like to be in an election?

Kehr Wicker: “That’s an interesting question since the first time I ran I was unopposed. First, I am self-funding my campaign because I do not want to be beholden to any one person or interest group. I try to be positive each and every day. I realize that this job can only be decided by the will of the voters. It’s my job to educate them on what this job entails and why I believe I’m the best qualified person for the job. After I’ve done that, it comes down to my faith in myself and that voters will ultimately make the right decision after they’ve assessed all the candidates.”

Freel Cazier: “Being involved in an election for the first time has been a very positive experience. I have received overwhelming support from friends, citizens of the town and businesses in our community.”

Yeager: “I ran for trustee in the last election and it was fun meeting a lot of people. To be a Democrat in Kosciusko County is an uphill battle in itself, we know that. But it’s more the idea that having people in the opposing party run for the jobs makes it competitive. I don’t think one party should be in total control on any level. It’s been fun canvassing and talking to people.”

Anything else?

Kehr Wicker: “I also want to talk about the qualifications for the job. I’m also the human resource officer for the town. I take care of payroll, including standard withholdings, reporting and paying of taxes. Internal Revenue Service and Indiana Department of Revenue, calculating employee deductions, paid time off and other withholdings as necessary. I am also responsible for ensuring W-2s are filed for employees and filing 1099s for vendors at the end of the year. I am responsible for retaining all employee personnel files and making sure they are ready and easily available in case of any Department of Labor audit.”

Freel Cazier: “I want to bring a teamwork atmosphere to the clerk’s office. I want to have an open door policy to the citizens of the town. I believe when you start a new job, in order to succeed you have to have the WANT and the WILL and I have the want and the will to succeed! I would greatly appreciate the support and vote on May 7 from the citizens of the town of Syracuse.”

Yeager:  He said he has “numerous and varied interests and occupational experiences over his working years.” He’s “competing for the clerk-treasurer position where I might bring my discipline, insight and determination to bear on serving the town government and the community.

“I just want to see local government function well and if I can be a part of it, that’d be great.”