During the recent county elections, more than 26,500 voters made an election choice for the district attorney position that oversees our criminal justice system for the county. Unfortunately, only 882 voters made a selection for the county treasurer’s role, a position that oversees a $20-million county budget.
Through no fault of his own, Michael Boucher’s write-in candidacy outpolled acting county finance administrator Pamela Linscott, also a write-in. Boucher’s margin of victory was 74 votes.
Why write-in candidates? Because no one had met the deadline for placing his or her name on the formal ballot.
The results point out the shortcomings of a process that county commissioners have long wanted to change from an elected position to one that is appointed. That appointment process would include interviewing aspiring treasurers and evaluating their accounting skills. A treasurer appointed by the commissioners would be accountable to the commissioners.
But Hancock County does not appoint its treasurer. The treasurer is elected. Winning a four-year term as treasurer makes the successful candidate accountable only to voters — in this case, the 3.3 percent of registered voters who expressed a preference. How many of those who showed up at the polls on Election Day even knew what name to write in?
It must also be noted that despite Boucher’s acknowledged lack of financial training, the county commissioners have elected to retain the staffing position — and staff member — who he defeated for the treasurer’s post, as this person has the skill set needed for the job, while Boucher currently does not.
County Commissioner Bill Clark decried the election process for the treasurer role as “an archaic system.”
“It probably worked 50 years ago, but it’s far more complicated today,” he said.
The county commissioners are our CEOs, working to supervise several departments to ensure that service commitments are met for all citizens. Can we truly expect them to effectively manage all of the county’s finances when one of the primary roles of county administration is left to a popular election that has no requirement of credentials beyond residency?
Boucher may well gain the skills necessary to execute his new position. Yet the system that enables the inherent compromises that currently exist do not serve us as citizens, the commissioners in their role or the county departments that so many residents count on. We can do better, and we should support Commissioner Clark and others as they work to convert the treasurer’s role to an appointed position, as several other Maine counties have already done.