For the first time since 1982, local voters will be putting somebody new in the office of Clark County treasurer. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Alishia Topper as the best candidate to maintain the stability and efficiency of the office.
As always, this is simply a recommendation, and Topper faces a well-qualified challenger in Robert Hinds. We encourage voters to study the race and to watch the editorial board’s interview with the candidates before making an informed decision.
It is likely that most voters have not given much thought to a vote for county treasurer in recent years. Doug Lasher is retiring after serving more than eight terms and often ran unopposed for re-election. His absence from the ballot creates a new dynamic in the contest for a position that oversees the county’s tax and revenue collection, banking services, debt management and investments.
Topper, a sitting member of the Vancouver City Council, is a familiar name in local political circles. If elected as treasurer, she will resign her council seat before taking office, as required by law. She has worked since August 2017 as tax services manager for the treasurer’s office, garnering valuable insight into the duties and the functions of the office.
Topper has a long history of community and government involvement, ranging from the board of directors for Columbia Credit Union to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to the Fort Vancouver National Trust. But name familiarity and local involvement are not the only reasons we recommend Topper for the position of treasurer; she is well-suited for this particular job and emphasizes the importance of responsive customer service.
“I have put in a lot of effort to truly understand the office,” she said, adding that one role of the treasurer is to lobby lawmakers for legislation that allows county treasurers to better serve the public.
The Clark County treasurer’s office has about 25 employees and handles thousands of interactions with the public each year. It oversees the transfer of about $7 billion a year and serves 42 taxing districts (such as school districts and cities), making for a complex job where management skills are more important than financial expertise.
Hinds, a market analyst and strategy manager for Hewlett-Packard, demonstrates financial expertise through a long history of employment in private industry. Previously, he has worked for Nautilus, Freightliner and Toyota, and his education and work history suggest that he can manage the financial concerns of the position. He also serves on the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission.
Hinds rightly emphasizes his financial background as his primary qualification for the position, and he has an understanding of the job’s duties. He has done his homework, which cannot always be said of political newcomers who seek elected office.
But the editorial board believes Topper’s management acumen and her experience in the department outweigh Hinds’ strengths. After a year with the department, she has earned the endorsement of Lasher, the outgoing treasurer, who knows something about what is required to effectively oversee the office.
Notably, neither candidate has announced a party preference for what nominally is a partisan position. The role of county treasurer should, indeed, be nonpartisan; safeguarding the county’s revenue concerns all residents, regardless of political preference.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes Alishia Topper is the best candidate to handle those duties and recommends her for Clark County treasurer.