ERIE – Neosho County Republicans nominated southern county resident Heather Elsworth, rural Erie, Thursday evening as the replacement for County Clerk.
A caucus of Republican precinct officers selected Elsworth on the first ballot from four applicants proposed for the County Clerk position to replace Randal Neely.
Neely, who resigned effective Thursday, would have finished his term next year. Elsworth’s nomination now goes to Gov. Laura Kelly for appointment. Kelly has up to 10 days to finalize the nomination, although the previous appointment of Gail Klaassen as County Commissioner was completed in two days.
Besides Elsworth, the precinct officers had applications for the job from Chanute City Commissioner Phil Chaney, former county employee Sue Jobe, and Chanute chiropractor Amy Weilert.
County Republican Chair and caucus chair Don Alexander said the selection had to receive a majority of the votes cast. Elsworth received 16 votes, with five for Chaney and two for Jobe. Neosho County has 50 precincts, but 27 posts are vacant and six delegates voted by proxy.
Elsworth said she was really excited and looking forward to being able to provide services.
Elsworth’s husband, Dustie Elsworth, has been a vocal opponent of the Neosho Ridge wind-power project and is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against it. Heather Elsworth has also filed as a candidate to be on the Southwind Extension board.
Each applicant received supporting remarks from the delegate who proposed them. The applicants had 10 minutes to make comments and then each responded to questions in a 30-minute session.
Elsworth discussed her involvement with her children’s livestock activities and school functions. She said she has worked with the county fair board and has lived in the county for 23 years.
She said her goal is to bring continuity and stability to the clerk’s office, and said she faces challenges due to the loss of experienced employees.
“I am passionate about this county,” Elsworth said.
Pat Houser, who proposed Elsworth, said she was impressed with her education and she has the bookkeeping abilities needed for the position.
In response to a question, all of the applicants said they plan to seek election or re-election next year. The questions also covered each applicant’s civic, leisure and political activities and their religions.
One question dealt with the fact that a city and school election is 4 ½ weeks away, and the County Clerk’s office has lost Deputy Election Clerk Rhonda Coronado.
“It’ll definitely be a learning curve,” Elsworth said.
Chaney cited his information technology experience in getting ballots printed, and Jobe said she hoped to get the office to full staff and also talk to Allen County officials.
Weilert said it would be important that whoever receives the appointment would be willing to ask for help.
“None of us really have that election knowledge,” she said.
The candidates were asked about their weaknesses. Chaney, Weilert and Jobe all discussed their tendency to become too involved and invested in a position, while Elsworth sawid she did not like drama.
“I have no time for that,” she said.
She said the way to get departments to work together was through kindness and respect.
“We’re there to make sure Neosho County succeeds,” Weilert said.
In nominating Weilert, delegate Linus Thuston said they needed to bring youth into the process, and Weilert said the best way to get involved and see change is to start locally. She previously applied for the vacant commissioner appointment.
Chaney said the County Clerk position takes a well-rounded person. He said he has a lot of budgeting experience and wanted to reduce turnover.
“I have the ability to adjust to whatever the job requires,” he said.
Jobe presented a handout of the duties of the clerk’s office. She said she wants to get the office straightened out.
“Do I know it all? No. Absolutely not,” she said. “I do know a lot of what goes on in there.”
She said she is already bonded and a notary.
In the end, Elsworth received the most votes for nomination and her recommendation will be sent to Kelly immediately for appointment.