Treasurer hopefuls spar at debate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

The best-kept secret in the 2002 local elections

may be the Mower County treasurer's race.

Longtime treasurer Ruth Harris has announced she is retiring and will leave the office at the end of the year.

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Two candidates have made it a contest: Doug Groh and Lynn Koch.

Groh is the chief deputy Mower County auditor. Koch is the former president of two Austin banks and now runs Austin Mortgage.

Despite an aggressive campaign this spring and summer throughout Mower County, Groh may be considered the underdog. That's because Koch has the endorsements of both Harris and another former long-time Mower County Treasurer, Eileen Tapager-Dietrich.

At Wednesday night's candidates forum sponsored by Austin American Legion Post No. 91, Groh and Koch had their first opportunity to debate issues before a segment of the public.

The pair were the last Mower County office-seekers to answer questions at the Legion forum. A hint of how unknown the candidates are came when they were introduced as "Wayne Groh" and "Len Koch."

Groh attacked Koch's plans to continue his private mortgage business and be a full-time county treasurer at the same time.

"I find it hard to believe you will be able to provide quality services to the taxpayers of Mower County, when you are running a private business on the side," Groh said.

Koch said a former Mower County recorder juggled an abstract business and his county recorder duties at the same time and he would be able to do the same.

When Koch said he wanted to be a county treasurer that could be a "resource for the county's policy makers," Groh obviously interpreted the remarks that Koch wanted to be a policy-maker for the county.

"I'm really confused when you talk about becoming a policymaker," Groh said.

Koch responded, "I said the Mower County treasurer could be a resource for the Mower County Board to make policies."

Also featured Wednesday night were Len Miller, incumbent, and Dick Lang, challenger, in the 4th commissioner district race;

arry Ellingson, incumbent, and Harry Willmott, challenger, in the 5th District commissioner's race; Terese Amazi and Todd Clennon, candidates for Mower County sheriff; and Patrick A. Oman, incumbent, and Patrick W. Flanagan, challenger, in the Mower County attorney's race.

Cdr. Jim Goudy called the forum, which was the post's first such event, "part of the American democratic experiment."

Ron Oman and Orville Moran served as moderators and Michelle Horvat was the time-keeper. Shirley Gomer, president of the Legion Auxiliary, supervised the collection of questions from the audience.

Austin American Legion Post No. 91 will host another forum Monday for state legislative candidates and Austin city office-seekers, beginning at 7 p.m.

Also next week, the League of Women Voters-Austin Area will host two televised forums Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 29 and 30, beginning 7 p.m. each evening.

Tonight, the local AAUW chapter hosts its own candidates forum at the Mower County Senior Center, beginning at 6 p.m.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at