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By LAURIE HUFFMAN
News Leader Alliance Bureau
Stark County Auditor Kim Perez, D-Canton, seeks to be re-elected after serving in the position since 2004. His opponent, newcomer to local politics Alan Harold, a Republican from Canton, wishes to take the job away from him on Nov. 2.
Along with holding the office of county auditor, Kim Perez has also served as a Canton city council member from 1998 to 2004 and as Canton city auditor from 1994 to 2004. Other experience he believes contributes to his effectiveness in office includes: Over 17 years of governmental fund accounting experience; serving as Canton city council finance chairman, Canton auditor (chief fiscal officer) and Stark County auditor (chief fiscal officer); being a member of the Stark County Budget Commission; secretary of the Ohio Association of Public Treasurers, executive committee; a member of the Government Finance Officers Association; past president of Northeast Ohio Auditors Association; the Ohio Auditors Association of Ohio Executive Committee vice president; and a member of the Tax Incentive Review Committee. Perez also has 21 years of supervising experience, 17 years of experience in implementation of major computer systems, and is a member of the International Association of Assessing Officers.
Perez has stated he is running for re-election because he wants to continue the progress he has made since he took the office as Stark County auditor. Some of the accomplishments he cites are: revision of the appraisal process to value property at a neighborhood level, correction of the Homestead Exemption program that illegally removed seniors and disabled people from receiving rightful benefits, and modernizing the auditor's department computer systems.
Assets he believes he brings to the job include a wealth of knowledge and experience as an elected auditor.
Current issues he believes the Stark County auditor will face include funding and implementing the technology initiatives the department has already undertaken, which he sees as the biggest challenge looming ahead.
With respect to goals for the position, if he is re-elected, Perez said he would continue to streamline and modernize the office with respect to technology and a strong staff. He would also look for ways to make the office more productive and efficient, such as working with the board of commissioners to create a centralized purchasing, mail services and human resources department for the entire county.
Perez, 53, is married and has three children and four grandchildren. He was educated at Glenwood High School and the Municipal Treasurer's Association, where he earned the status of certified municipal finance administrator. He also attended Kent State and Akron universities to earn public finance certifications.
Alan C. Harold, R-Canton, said he is running for the office for two reasons. First, to fill what he sees as a need for leadership and accountability in the auditor's office. Second, because he has long desired to serve the public in this capacity.
The assets Harold believes he will bring to the position are a strong educational background; years of practical, real-world experience; proven leadership and integrity, which he believes are needed to restore the trust and accountability regarding the county's finances.
When asked about his stand on current issues he would face in the position, he said one of the biggest issues the auditor's office will face is the preparation for the 2012 reappraisal process.
"Proper planning is of the utmost importance," he has said, "as taxpayers are expecting declines in property values given the overall housing market, and local government and schools are increasingly reliant on property tax revenues for operations."
If elected, his primary goal is "to create an office that truly has the public's trust." This will be done with open and regular reporting of the county's financial position, he said, and with the creation of a fair property re-evaluation process and a "no nepotism" policy within the office. A second goal is to review the use of technology within the office and to uncover gaps in efficiency.
Harold has 15 years experience in accounting and banking, which he believes has prepared him well for the position he seeks. He has served internships at the Ohio Auditor's Office in Cleveland and at the White House in Washington, D.C.
He was educated at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, where he earned a master of business administration in 2003; at University of Mount Union, where he earned a bachelor of arts in business administration in 1998; and Louisville High School, from which he graduated with highest honors in 1994. He is a graduate of Leadership Stark County and Leadership Stark County's government academy.
Harold was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Ohio with his family when he was 3 years old. His parents were both born and raised in Stark County and raised their family here. He is married and has two children.