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Treasurer's race gets third candidate

Ensuring an exciting primary run-off come September, a third candidate has entered the race for the position of Island County Treasurer.

Freeland resident Marty Matthews, a Republican, announced Thursday that he will be running for treasurer, pitting himself against both incumbent Maxine Sauter and Democratic hopeful Linda Riffe, an Oak Harbor school administrator who announced her candidacy on June 19.

Recent findings by the state auditor that cite a systemic lack of financial controls in the treasurer's office, coupled with Sauter's stubborn denial that any problems indeed exist, point to the probability that this will be an interesting and highly-contested election race.

Matthews, a former vice-president of finance and administration for a subsidiary of the Boeing corporation and a software development consultant, said it is largely due to the state auditor's findings that he decided to run for Sauter's position. He said he believes there is strong need for some changes in the way the treasurer's office does business, and that if elected he would work closely with the state to overcome any problems.

"I think that the function of the state auditor is really important to the taxpayer," Matthews said Friday

Having drawn a number of auditors findings over the few years that haven't been worked out yet, Matthews said it's time to start listening.

"The findings are becoming more and more detailed," he said. "As much as I appreciate what Maxine has done, and she's handled our money well, you can't thumb your nose at the auditor. You have to work with him."

Matthews said the treasurer should be seeking ways to fix the problems while also keeping expenses down. He added that Sauter's repeated claim that her office has "never lost a penny" doesn't really address the issue at hand.

"Good accounting practices say that she should do things in a different way," he said. "That's the bottom line."

Although, as he's quick to point out, Matthews can't say exactly what changes need to take place until becoming more familiar with how the office works, he said that as treasurer he would keep an open line of communication with the state auditor's office in order to effect the necessary changes.

One of the primary means by which to increase efficiency and accountability in the treasurer's office is through technology, Matthews said. With his computer and business experience, he said he believes he can bring the office up to speed, technologically speaking, without spending too much of a budget-challenged county's money.

"Other offices are really utilizing technology to gain productivity," he said. "That has not been very well-used in the treasurer's office."

Another goal for Matthews would be to keep the public informed about the county's financial matters, and to make that information clear and usable. Matthews, who has been active in the Republican party during his 17 years on Whidbey Island, said it was not an easy decision to run for office, especially as he considers Sauter to be a friend. What ultimately prompted him to enter the race was his perception that changes needed to be made to the way the treasurer's office does business.

"I see a problem, and I did not see anybody else stepping up to it," he said.

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