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County clerk won’t seek
Arthritis getting in Harms’ way

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

One term is going to be it for Platte County Clerk Joan Harms.

Harms told The Landmark she will not be putting her name on the ballot when her position comes up for election this year.

The clerk says reasons of “health and family” will keep her from seeking reelection. Her decision is not political, and has nothing to do with the county commission’s recent decision to significantly cut her staff salary budget.

“I really want to run, I just don’t think I will,” she said Monday, explaining for the past few months she has been battling rheumatoid arthritis.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is not something they can really cure. You just have to live with it,” she remarked.

Harms, a Republican, was elected in November of 2010, defeating longtime incumbent Sandy Krohne 54% to 46%, with 16,455 votes for Harms to 14,062 for Krohne.

Prior to entering politics, Harms said her experience was in the corporate world.

“This is a business office. I ran because people came to me and said ‘we really would like you to run,’ Harms said.

She said there have been accomplishments in her office over the past few years.

“We have processes and procedures in place for the next person,” Harms said. “This office is a paper jockey. We don’t do anything magical.”

She has taken the process of accepting money out of her office for any and all licenses and fees handled by the clerk’s office.

“They come to my office to fill out a form and then we send them to the treasurer’s office to make payment,” Harms explained.

That way, she added, the county doesn’t have to audit her office for money.

Another efficiency improvement at the county, she said, is that the building of the agenda for county commission meetings is now done via a shared computer drive.

Harms said her office is run in a more fiscally conservative manner and on a smaller budget than when she was first elected.

“I think I’ve personally clerked every county commission meeting, or at least been in the room for each one,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

The clerk’s office staff salary budget was $74,000 in 2010; $74,000 again in 2011; cut to $60,000 in 2012, and was at $62,000 for 2013.

She said she has reduced expenditures in her office and saved the county money by doing things like returning $5,000 of $62,000 that had been budgeted in her staff salary line in 2013.

In the 2014 budget (see related story), the county commission has reduced the county clerk’s staff salary line to $50,000, a move that caught Harms and her staff by surprise. This week, she announced the move would force her to cut the office hours for her office from 8-5 to 9-4. Harms said there would be days where she personally will be in the office until 5 p.m., but that the posted office hours will be 9-4.

“Keeping a good staff is very important to me,” she remarked.

She explained she has no one in mind to run for election to the spot she is about to give up.

“I don’t have anybody that I have selected,” she said.

County positions up for election in 2014 include county clerk, presiding commissioner, prosecutor, county clerk, collector, recorder and auditor.

Filing for county candidates opens Feb. 25 at 8 a.m. and will close March 25 at 5 p.m.