UPDATE: Due to an error with our computer systems, today’s episode of “KZUM News” didn’t air. As a result, a previous episode partially played in its place. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.
We have uploaded today’s episode to the archives so that it is available for listeners. We will also work to get the transcript up as quickly as possible.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
We are counting down to November 8. That general election is 11 days away. Of course, we want you to be as prepared as one can be when stepping into the voting stall. So we have another round of candidates joining us today.
We will be starting out with our County Treasurer candidates. Incumbent Rachel Garver is representing the Democratic Party. Her opponent is the Republican candidate Tracy Refior.
After we’ve had a chance to hear from our County Treasurer candidates, Lin Quenzer will be joining us to talk about her campaign for the Clerk of the District Court. Unfortunately, her opponent, incumbent Troy Hawk, could not be reached and he will not be joining us today.
But, first, we’d like to remind everyone that the deadlines for registering to vote and to request mail-in ballots have passed. If you have not already done those things, you will need to vote in person at your polling location. Polling locations will open up at 8:00 a.m. on November 8 and close at 8:00 p.m. If you are not sure where you are supposed to go, you can head to the voter check website at votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/voterview/ to double-check your registration information.
Now, we are going to dive right in. We flipped a coin and Mr. Refior is going to sit down with us first to talk about his campaign for the county treasurer position.
Welcome and thank you for joining us, Tracy. So you have been settled in Lincoln for a while? Correct?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Since ‘88, since I graduated high school in North Platte. Came down for college, graduated in ‘93 from UNL [University of Nebraska-Lincoln], and I remained.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And now you’re running for county treasurer.
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: That’s right.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Why do you want to run for this position?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Well, as a fiduciary and a financial advisor, I’m concerned, as far as for those 300 million that sits in the county coffers, there’s nobody more qualified than myself, the only candidate with financial licenses: series 7 and 66.
So. And as far as a fiduciary as well. So, what that means is I am duly obligated, morally and ethically, to do what’s right every time for the client. And, in this case, for every Lancaster County citizen instead of my own interests.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Can you go into a little more detail? Tell us a little more about your history as a treasurer or I guess fiduciary.
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Right.
So, in ‘93 I graduated UNL with a political science and a speech/comm[unications] degree with minors. I entered into the financial industry shortly thereafter in July… August of ‘93.
So, I’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars for individuals for various reasons whether it be their own retirements, college for their children, or as far as just for rainy days, right? So, in ‘93, when I entered into the financial industry, not only did I have a background or beginning background in the financial industry but, as a young child, I also entered into the real estate business.
So, my mother had real estate properties. I then took those over after her passing in ’94. And I decided that real estate was really good as far as for multi-dwellings that I owned here. Then, after 2015, I decided that the real estate market is good but, as far as in that rental business, I decided that one day I’m gonna get too old to work on my own rentals. So, I then informed my wife, Kristi, that I’m going to sell everything as far as that I own and build storage units.
So, I built the highest secured storage facility in the Midwest. And I continue to operate that… very successfully. So, I know budgets. I know how to stick to a budget and I know how to adhere to and make budgets.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And you currently have a financial firm here in Lincoln, as well, correct?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: I work for a national firm.
So, we have multiple individuals on my team that currently assist myself, as well as the other advisors. Currently, I do not take any income from my broker-dealer knowing that, here in November, potentially being elected as far as county treasurer. So, there would be no conflict of interest between my broker dealer and myself.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, this position has a variety of duties that would become your responsibility if you win in November. Which of those is going to be your top priority moving forward, though?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: The top priority is absolute transparency with the County Treasurer’s Office. For the past so many years, the transparency, in my opinion, has not been there.
And what I mean by that is far as knowing exactly where every tax dollar is being allocated. A lot of times the county treasurers sit back as these moneys come in and then the clerk’s office cuts checks back out to the other political entities or other sub-government agencies. But also part of the treasurer’s job is to actually sit down and really figure out where these moneys are going: i.e. as far as like, for instance, the wheel tax.
We have two different wheel taxes. But, in my opinion as well as maybe a lot of listeners, our roads are not exactly in the best condition. And, so, part of my job as far as county treasurer, is to absolutely track exactly where that wheel tax is going and how it’s being spent, instead of putting it in maybe the general fund, to absolutely set that money aside and track exactly where that wheel tax is going for roads.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now I do want to hit the first part of that statement first. You said transparency is really important for you. So, part of that transparency is [that] you’ll be dealing with a lot of public and private information. How would you be handling any misallocated funds or any problems that were to pop up?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Yeah, so in the past – not just with transparency, a lot of that transparency – in my opinion, a testation audit most likely needs to take place.
Now, a lot of people are not familiar with that: a testation audit, that really comes down with the state auditor. Not as far as just to audit the current moneys that are available or in the county coffers. Not so concerned as far as that. But it’s also the processes of what the county treasurer and their processes… i.e. the DMV.
So, some of those situations, since you brought that up, the efficiency as far as with the current situation with our DMV… Sarpy Counties Trace Jones recently, a few years ago, just two years ago, took office. The wait times at Sarpy was about 78 minutes. When he took over, he implemented new technology, what he calls a keyless system. And the wait times currently are about 10 minutes. Now, that wouldn’t necessarily be such a big deal here in Lancaster, only that Sarpy County has about 250,000 residents versus our 350,000 residents. So the wait times here for Lancaster, we would not know how to track them [be]cause that’s not the way our system is set up. You would literally have to sit there with a stopwatch and time how long it takes to get through the line.
Now, it wouldn’t happen every day. First week of the month and the last week of the month is when it would really come into play. But, also as far as with that county treasurer’s office, to bring the professionalism and the respect back to every county citizen. Meaning when you step into the DMV, you are the taxpayer. You’re the client. And that needs to be upheld first and foremost. [Be]cause really every county elected official works for the people. Not for their own special interest.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’ve mentioned the DMV a couple of times and we will talk more about that later.
Right now I want to know a little bit more about how you plan to convey complex financial information to both the public and other government entities, especially since you’re going to be dealing with information that, maybe, not everyone understands as well as you do.
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Right. So with the County Treasurer’s Office, the DMV is really what the people see. That’s only really about 10% of the treasurer’s job. The other 90% is those 300 million that’s sitting in the county coffers.
So to really sit back and track exactly how that information’s being let out. And that will be done by various means. Absolutely. Total transparency means every dollar tracked. And that might be, maybe, something on a quarterly basis where a newsletter needs to be produced to absolutely show where every dollar is being tracked and whether somebody would want to see exactly where that wheel tax is going, or how those county real estate taxes are being dispersed.
So, I mean, there’s a lot of things that the county treasurer has a lot of leeway, in certain regards. I.e. in May of 2020, our current treasurer separated those buildings out. So a lot of listeners may not understand as far as that we, the county taxpayers, own the two buildings that really go along with the County Treasurer’s Office. Meaning West O Street is strictly now used for driver’s licenses and the 46th Street [office] is strictly used for new and renewal of license plates, tags. So we do not have a one-stop shop. It used to be we did. In my administration, we would absolutely have a one-stop shop. You’ll be able to do your driver’s license. You’ll be able to pay your county real estate tax. You’ll be able to do your new tags and renewals.
Now that being said, currently, downtown at the County Treasurer’s Office, there’s a sign right on the front counter. “No new renewals after 1:00 PM.” This is because the technology is not there. They cannot see inventory. So for instance, ‘001’ license plate, if it was given out or dispersed to a county resident downtown would not see that ‘001’ is not available. And so they do inventory every day.
This is a very easy situation to take care of by implementing technology and having the different offices talk to one another. You would absolutely in real-time, under my administration, know exactly that inventory. So ‘001’ be given out on 46th Street. Downtown, they would know that ‘001’ is not available and ‘002’ is, and so on and so forth.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, you mentioned that you would want to combine those DMVs to a one-stop shop. Would that mean you would close one location or would both locations be staying open?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Well, that’s a great question. I think there would be a way to not only keep both those open but also even perhaps even more satellite offices. Maybe something more towards the south to take care of Hickman and that side of the county, as well as something north to take care of Waverly.
It may also be a situation to go back to a Saturday morning service where people don’t have to take off work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, where they could also conduct business on a Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to noon.
Or, again, that would also be into interpretation or new business. A lot of people are not aware of that. Our unicameral has passed legislation in just the last couple [of] years to help the county treasurers bring back the one-stop shop. So Douglas County brought back the one-stop shop and my understanding is that’s working swimmingly.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: One of the other questions that we think about a lot when it comes to county treasurers is that a lot of our treasurers choose a primary bank in which they handle all of their transactions through. What would your process look like for researching and choosing that bank option?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Yeah, so… as the only qualified candidate with a fiduciary background and a financial background, those would be sent out for bids. Those. There’s a whole procedure in that right now. The county transacts business with multiple banks.
I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s probably more of a liquidity issue that they’re looking for. You certainly wouldn’t, as far as like in the investment world, what I would consider not having all your eggs in one basket. So if there was a situation, a negative situation, you could still access funds for the county.
And so I would say, by state statute, there’s a bidding process that would go out. And I don’t think it would probably be the most advantageous situation to have just one financial institution, but, certainly, multiple institutions that are reputable and could handle those transactions in a timely fashion.
I would say local business is absolutely the best. But you don’t want to get into a cronyism situation either. So there are rules that are in play [for] us investment advisors. Now, I would be allegedly the only county treasurer in the United States with investment licenses and a fiduciary background.
Now that comes back because, anybody who’s licensed in the financial world, we have what we call compliance officers. And, in the past, it has been really quite a process to jump through different hoops because they would not want a county treasurer to influence a bond issue. However, in this county, it’s not that situation [be]cause the county treasurer is basically the custodian of the money and does not make policy. That would be with the county commissioners, not the county treasurer. Now, that also being said, the county treasurer also has the right to invest money. And that’s where my expertise would come into play. I am the only candidate that has the financial background to know what those operating expenses for those particular investments [are], to save money for the county but do it in such a way, what we would call the prudent man rule. A county treasurer would never – hopefully, would never – be investing county moneys into something like… let’s say, cryptocurrency, where there would be high risk.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Not a lot of stability, huh?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Correct. There are rules in play, called the ‘prudent man rule.’ For counties and county treasures, we would invest the majority of the money in county bonds. Or not just county bonds but government bonds, government treasuries, CDs that may be laddered, meaning there would be multiple types of maturity rates.
So you wouldn’t lock that money up. You would want liquidity would be a key issue at that point. Now, how would I do that? And, without getting too technical, there’s different betas or different correlations between risk and reward. But that would come down to as far as what broker-dealers that we would have agreements with and their expense ratios, where I would feel comfortable that they could do the job at a reasonable expectation or operating expense.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Obviously you’re gonna be keeping track of all of this information, probably using some sort of technical system that the county either already has set up or a new one that you would implement. Would you be looking at keeping their current IT systems or putting in a bid for a new one?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, that’s where the county contracts out with the city in IT. But that being said, since you brought up security issues in the past, our county treasurer has been so efficient that we used to make our own driver’s licenses, not just for our own county but also for other states. Currently, that is not the situation. Currently, all drivers’ licenses are being produced in Illinois and mailed back. Which is a, in my opinion, a situation where more hands, more eyes on any sensitive information creates more risk of fraud or identity theft.
And, so, back with the state DMV director, Director Lahm, that would be a situation where I would like to see fixed. Like we would produce our own driver’s licenses and become so efficient once again that we could help other states produce and perhaps even make money for the county by helping those other states.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, that seems really interesting. I was not aware that we had stopped doing that or even that we had done that at one point. So looking at that, systems and security, one of the other questions that we wanna talk about with county treasurers is how would you choose to handle unappropriated funds or unallocated funds?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Yeah. Again, there’s rules in play.
You certainly, the first thing would be as far as liquidity because that 300 million that sits in the county confers would have to be liquid. Within reason, you know. But within analysis and projections, by doing cash flow analysis as well as projected budgets we would know, within reason, as far as how we would go about investing that money more long term versus short term.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And, lastly, do you have any final comments you wanna make?
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: I would also say as far as with the small business owners, currently a lot of people don’t really understand as far as how the treasurer’s office works with car dealers.
Currently, on Fridays at noon, the dealer line closes. So every car dealer has up till noon on Fridays. But after the noon hour, no new business, face-to-face, is transacted. Also under my administration, that will not take place. Those car dealers will have the utmost respect from the county. They process a ton of county taxes and they should be numero uno. They have their own line. But there’s no reason to close that line. You have a line. Why would you close that line at noon on a Friday? Why would you make life that much harder for the exact people that you are… you’re supposed to be helping the county, not making life that much harder.
And, so, under my administration, we’ll remove those. We’ll have absolute transparency downtown. There won’t be a 1:00 p.m. cutoff. We’ll bring back the comment cards. Currently, there’s no comment cards in the County Treasure’s Office. And it, in my opinion, that means that particular office doesn’t care about what the county people believe or even wants their opinion. And, ultimately, this is not a red-or-blue situation. This is not a Democrat or a Republican situation. This is a citizens of Lancaster County situation. And somebody who is qualified, like myself, to take care of those county funds, take care of that DMV, and to bring the professionalism, the integrity, and the transparency back to Lancaster.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Excellent. Well then thank you so much for joining us here in [the] studio today. We appreciate it. And, of course, best of luck to you in that upcoming election. I can’t wait to see the results.
Tracy Refior, Republican Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Thank you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: With Tracy Refior, the republican candidate for the County Treasurer position, on his way out the door, we will have the Democratic Party incumbent candidate, Rachel Garver joining us in the studio next. But first, we have a few messages from the station. Don’t touch that dial and we will be right back.
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Amantha Dickman, News Director: Before the break, we met with the Republican Party’s candidate for the County Treasurer position, Tracy Refior. Running opposite of him is Rachel Garver, the Democratic Party’s incumbent candidate.
Rachel Garver is in the studio today and we are talking about her re-election campaign for the County Treasurer position.
Welcome, Rachel. We appreciate you coming into the studio today to sit down with us.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Thank you, Amantha.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. How are you doing today?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: I’m doing okay.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: November 8 is quickly approaching. How are you feeling about it?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: To be honest, it’d be nice if it was over.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: A little stressful?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: It is a little stressful.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now you are serving as the current county treasurer. How long have you been serving in this position again?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: I started in January of 2019, so I am in my fourth year.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Congratulations. You’ve made it the full round. Before you were elected, what kind of work were you doing?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: I was working at the University of Nebraska and the student accounts department.
I was responsible for putting together and making sure that student billing was done correctly. We were just… I was just responsible for getting all that out. I was also responsible for collections. Not everybody always paid the bills, so you have to follow up on that. And there’s various different levels of what needs to be done.
We also did some of the collections. For the… what they still use the old-fashioned term of ‘perkins loans’ but some of that terminology has changed over time. But those were the collections of those student loans [that] were the responsibility of the school to be sure to get collected. And we had to go after those if they were not being processed. Or they were not being paid as they were to be. So I was responsible for getting that done also. So.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Certainly. That sounds really fascinating, especially the perkins loans. And I love how I’m learning that terminology in the accountant world changes rather significantly and differs from state to state and throughout the course of time. As we’ve already discussed, there might be a couple of times, you have to correct my terminology.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Okay.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: But. You’ve been in the office for the last four years. Can you tell me a little bit about the changes that you have overseen in your time as county treasurer and what your priority would be moving forward? What other changes you would be focused on making this upcoming term if you were elected?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Okay. When I first began, the state of Nebraska, the Department of Motor Vehicles asked me to come in because they wanted to talk to me about the software that they were upgrading. And so I participated with the state on that and I understood what all was going on.
I had implemented major software before when I was at the university. Twice we upgraded to practically brand-new software. It was a huge ordeal. It took… The last one we did took 18 months to fully… Well with that… to be fully implemented took over 18 months. But from start to first day that we were live on, it was 18 months. Well, this was going to have to be done in we went live mid-October and I understood what all would be involved.
So I did commit one of the full-time staff members to be part of that implementation with the state. And then whenever they needed other people to come in, we pretty much cycled through quite a few people, staff members, so that they could help with the implementation and getting things as to what users needed to do.
And then there was the whole training part. And I was fully invested in wanting to make sure we had our staff fully trained and we did have a successful implementation. We came up live. There were just some minor hiccups with some of the software things, but they were so minor that it didn’t really affect hardly anybody.
And there’s always… with any software, there’s always little upgrades and little changes that make things a little better. But it was very successful and it allowed us, over time, because staff takes a while to get used to it, to be a little bit faster with some of the aspects of what we did and be a little bit more efficient in making sure that all the pieces of what we need to do when we’re registering or titling motor vehicles is done correctly.
Some of the other things we did, was soon after the… Not soon after we reopened… When the pandemic started, we had to shut down and we reopened in the summer. And we realized that something that would really help us would be to have appointments. I checked with another county that had a system. But that was really rather expensive and very cumbersome to use. And the state had a potential solution for us. And we looked at that and that was extremely expensive. Through looking, we did find something that we could afford in the budget that was fairly easy to use and it’s been working fabulously. It’s very easy to use. We allow people to set up an appointment on our website or they can call in and make an appointment.
So that was something we were able to do. I also was able to restructure and update job duties for various personnel and positions. And that really helped improve customer service and just made… well, we actually took a person and put them at the front door of our North 46th Street office and helps people to know where they need to go and if they even need to be there.
Sometimes they are there for another purpose than motor vehicles or maybe they need to go to the state because that’s a state function. Only the state dictates what we can and can’t do in our office. So. And sometimes it’s really bizarre. They totally don’t know where they need to be and they’re totally in the wrong place. That does happen and we try to help them. They just need, maybe, some other county office or… but we have somebody there that helps guide people where they need to go.
I also negotiated with a new vendor for our credit card and online payment system. And, in doing that, was able to get [a] reduction in fee prices. We went from 2.35% on credit cards to 2.19%. And I was able… we have online checking fees [which] we brought down to zero. Now, that online checking is only something that is available on the real estate side. The property tax side, because the county runs that now.
On the motor vehicle side, that is run by the state. And so those are the fee. They charge their own fees and we have nothing to do with that. They run and make their policies and their procedures of what they do so that it’s consistent throughout the state of Nebraska because there’s 93 counties. And if we each did something a little different, that could get confusing.
Other things I have done is I have made sure that all our reports are accurate, our financial reports, and made sure that they are submitted on time. I’ve closely monitored all our investments and [have] been able to have a fairly balanced portfolio.
We brought in vendor: three+one. They are an investment analyst company that specializes in local governments and helping them with their investment and banking business. And, when we were referred to them from our Nebraska Association for County Officials and they came from the National Association for County Officials, but they’re one of their preferred vendors because they do just a very fantastic job of helping local government manage their investment portfolios.
So we actually had a presentation. I brought in our fiscal and budget officer. He is an employee of the county board. He answers to the county board and he’s part of a different area than in the treasurer’s office. And we looked at that, we presented to the county board. The county attorney’s office looked over the contract [be]cause the county attorney always has to approve all the contracts and the wording of the contracts before the county board will approve and sign. And they have to sign all contracts. And they were very pleased and we’ve been able to have an increase in income from our investments by looking at some of the recommendations from three+one and bringing them in and allowing them to help us. Especially when we were going through such [a] bad period of time when interest rates were so very low.
And that’s when we were looking at getting some help because, in order to have somebody come in and help us do the analysis of looking at where the UE are with economy, where we are with what we’re doing in the county, and what all is going on and what we’re going to, where we’re gonna need to have money. We know some of the things that are going on. But we are having to track the different areas and the different projects that are going on. So having them help us with some of that has been tremendous because we don’t have it in the budget to add any more personnel.
And [the] fees they charge are reasonable and less than hiring an f and we would’ve had to tar hire an FTE (full-time equivalent). So that has been a really good thing that we’ve been able to do.
And I’m proud of myself because I am fiscally conservative and I have stayed within my own department’s budget and always been under budget every year so far. I’m hoping that I can continue that. I try to put a budget together that I believe is also fiscally conservative. And I don’t always get to choose everything about what goes in the budget for my department because of the way everything is set up.
OpenGov is the software that the county uses for the accounting and budget and fiscal work. And that has a component that uses the information from the HR system that we have for paying for employees. So that all forecasts out. And if you need something changed there, whoever wants something changed in your personnel budget, you have to go to the fiscal and budget office and plead your case.
And then again, you’ll have to go before the board and plead your case because the board is very careful about making sure we stay within certain parameters.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And one of the things we talked a little bit about earlier was that there is no such thing as unallocated funds.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: All funds are allocated. Like you have general funds but, because they’re based on the budget, and they do budget out to have surplus funds for if something were to happen that they could… the county board can dip into those funds, but those are allocated as surplus funds.
So there really is no such thing as unallocated funds. There are funds in the general budget and all those funds are allocated out and to what all the different departments have budgeted.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you’ve talked a little bit about how you have a lovely team of people who help you predict what kind of investments you wanna make, but can we talk a little bit about what your techniques are for analyzing risk when it comes to those investments?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Risk has to do with what kind of investments you’re making. The state of Nebraska, in their statutes, have defined what different areas and entities in government can invest in. So there is a part of what counties invest in and it is very stringent about exactly what you can invest in. Mainly it is CDs and they have to be not just 100% collateralized… They have to be like… 102% collateralized. So really there isn’t a lot of risk when you’re collateralized.
And we can have money market funds, which are available to us. They’re fairly liquid and those also have to be collateralized. So really the risk is relatively low and that is built in and mandated by state statute.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then obviously you just mentioned your bank. I did wanna know a little bit about your vetting process.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: There are qualifications in state statute for what banks you can and cannot use. We also have some policies. The county board has.
So, for Lancaster County, we have to have a bank that has what we call brick and mortar in Lancaster County. And then, if there’s banks that do, they have to submit their desire to be considered for a bank that we use for just regular… any for when we invest in CDs or money market funds. Then, annually, the county board will do a resolution that says these are the banks that we do business with, and anybody… We have that information, what banks we can do business with, out on our website. We have all kinds of information out on our website for the treasurer’s office.
And, when we have a bank that we do our primary business with, that bank went through a bid process. What we did this last time, we piggybacked off of the state’s contract. Which is an option of what we could do. Is to go with the bank that the state uses. What has to happen is when that contract expires, which it does expire at the end of next year, is we will go out on bid. And, so, as far as I know, this is gonna be the process. I don’t know that we’ll be able to piggyback again. I’m not sure but the bank will have to meet certain standards to be able to do business with the county.
They have… Some small banks won’t participate simply because they’re too small. But they may be banks that are on a list that we can open a CD with because we don’t exclusively do all our banking with one bank for multiple reasons.
One is we wanna spread our business throughout the county. It, I think, it’s being a good member of our county to participate in allowing the spreading out of all our business. So, and then, two, our primary bank isn’t always gonna have the best rates and we want to get the best rates we can.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, of course, we talked a little bit earlier before we got on air about the DMV. I didn’t realize how big of a role it plays in your job.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Well, everybody calls it the DMV, but the DMV is actually the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. The county plays a huge part with that, in that we provide registration and titling of motor vehicles. Downtown does the full gambit of everything that goes on in the treasurer’s office. But the North 46th Street office is pretty much exclusively for motor vehicles. They get some information that may need to come.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then I do want to address this. Tracy Refior, when we sat down with him, mentioned that he had several priorities for the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, one of which would be making both of them a one-stop shop.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: West O is driver’s licenses. And we have two of our employees there and we pay the rent for that facility. Our two employees collect the money for driver’s license. Everything else about what goes on at the West O location for driver’s licenses is exclusively the state. The state runs driver’s licenses.
They were at the North 46th Street office when we had the pandemic, we closed and then we needed to reopen. We reopened. We weren’t sure what we should do. We reopened and did exclusively driver’s licenses at West O and exclusively motor vehicles at North 46 to keep the amount of… number of people to a minimum. There were a few people but not many that came to do both. But that number is extremely small. After you’ve gotten your initial driver’s license or your learner’s permit, once you’ve had a driver’s license, it’s only done once every five years. And you can renew two times without going in. You can do that online, and that would mean you would get a driver’s license maybe once every 15 years that you would have to go to the office. And you go during a specific time according to your birthday.
Well, you may not have a card to take care of at that time. So that’s why they’re not timely related, but… and also then the state has had issues with filling all their positions and they have limited the number of hours that they’re open outstate in different offices. And so that is not our call. The state is looking to do a driver’s license service center like they have in Douglas and Sarpy County. And they awarded a bid as the last I’ve been told. So they will be going somewhere else and be totally separated from the county.
And right now we don’t get to say what we want to get out of that. The state statutes has that in it.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then the driver’s licenses are not currently being made here, even though they used to be.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: That is all state control. The county has no control over that and that information is available. You just have to go out to the state.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then I don’t have any other questions for today, but do you have anything else that you’d like to talk about or any last-minute statements for our listeners?
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Well, I would hope I will get reelected.
I really feel like this is a position that I was meant to have and meant to do. It’s been an honor. To be the Lancaster County Treasurer. It is also disappointing but [has] been an honor to be the first woman in that position. But I’m proud that I am that woman and I want to hold onto this position because I think I’ve been doing a lot of really positive things.
I just enjoy working with the staff and I enjoy working with the people and providing a positive experience. As I’ve been campaigning, I have had so many wonderful comments about how well things are being run, and they hope they continue. And I’m enjoying working with the people of Lancaster County. And I just wanna continue doing that because I’m here to serve the people of Lancaster County.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, best of luck to you in November, Rachel.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Thank you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Can’t wait to see those results. And thank you, of course, for joining us today. We appreciate you taking time out, especially with how hectic it’s gonna be the next couple of weeks.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: Yeah. Well, thank you very much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Have a lovely afternoon.
Rachel Garver, Democratic Incumbent Candidate for the County Treasurer Office: You too.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Rachel Garver, to discuss her current position as the County Treasurer and her campaign for re-election.
We have one more guest today. But before we can invite her into the studio, we have one more quick break. But once that is done, Lin Quenzer will be joining us to discuss her campaign for the Clerk of the District Court.
[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public service announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to “KZUM News.”
We have Lin Quenzer in the studio here with us. Welcome. I’m so glad that you could join us today, Lin.
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: I appreciate it. Thank you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So obviously we’re just gonna jump right into. Why do you want to run for the clerk of District Court and what experience do you bring to the position?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: Well, you know, I’ve been the ombudsman for the city of Lincoln for more than 23 years. And what that position has done is it brings accessibility to city services, to the people who need to use them: the consumers of those services. And I’ve done a lot of innovative things with my office including having online reporting and reporting by app, and done a lot of work around those issues to make government more transparent and accessible. And when you can do those two things, you gain more public trust in government.
So what the clerk of the district court office does is very similar to what I do as ombudsman. It provides access to the courts and to all the functions of that system, which is a different branch of government than City Hall.
City Hall is the executive branch and the legislative branch. And, obviously, the courts are the third branch of government, the way we have our democracy set up here in the United States. And so I think I can bring an awful lot of expertise in government resources and work and understanding the systems.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: What do you believe are the biggest challenges the office of the Clerk of District Court… that they are currently facing?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: Well, it is an interesting office. And it’s very parallel to what I’ve been doing as an ombudsman because you are dealing with the government, with the capital G. And, so, people get real prickly right away because, when you’re trying to give someone information, sometimes people think that you’re trying to do something other than that.
And the clerk of the district court cannot ever give legal advice to anybody. We can inform, we can do, “It goes here, it goes there. Here’s the computer, here’s where you find this.” But we can’t actually offer legal advice, and I would never do such a thing. I’ve been doing this kind of work now for 23 years, and I certainly wouldn’t ever presume to give legal advice.
However, there are a number of improvements that need to happen in this office to make it more forward-facing and more friendly to deal with.
I’ve worked so many years in government and nobody has any issues at all showing up for a city council meeting or a legislative hearing. People are free to come and go. And they have no compunction about picking up a phone or sending an email off and interacting with our legislative branch of government. And having worked in the Mayor’s Office, which is the CEO of the city’s office, they haven’t any trouble doing that either. But when it comes to the courts, there seems to be a reluctance because people are very cautious around that. And somewhat rightfully so. The courts are a very hallowed institution. And so we need to maintain that decorum.
However, having said that, I would also like to point out that we have the opportunity and the ability to interface more freely with the public than ever before. As of January of this year, the Nebraska Supreme Court has said that they want all of the forms you can file with the Clerk of the District Court’s Office to be available to the public online. And the only requirement that the Nebraska Supreme Court put on having those forms available is that people have to have an email address to be contacted. And that’s a good thing. And it’s a wonderful thing, in fact, for people to be able to get to those forms so that they can educate themselves on what they might be getting into if they wanted to file something.
And it’s a wonderful cost-saving measure for people who really need to make changes in their lives that have to go through a district court. Like a name change for instance. And a lot of people don’t have the money to be able to hire an attorney to simply do a name change, which is probably not the most difficult thing to do. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, of course, but you know, it’s something that can be done on one’s own.
And the problem we have currently with the system is that most people who can’t afford to hire an attorney also can’t afford to have a giant computer, like you and I have at our desks every day. Most of them have cell phones. And right now those forms are such voluminous PDFs, and they are in PDF format, that you can’t even open them from a cell phone if you have a smartphone. And a lot of people don’t even have that.
So I think those are some challenges that we have to help carry forward that mandate by the Nebraska Supreme Court to truly make our courts more accessible and more accommodating to people who really need to be able to file things on their own.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, you mentioned that filing system and we’ll circle back around to that in a little while. But to start off, would you be looking at changing the paperwork that is necessary to file for those name changes or finding other ways to make those documents more accessible on cell phones?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: You know, that is a function of the Nebraska State Supreme Court.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh. Nevermind.
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: But having said that, I would certainly want to work with their I.T. people that they have doing that. Because I know that they’re striving for this kind of accessibility that makes those things easier to get to.
And I think that there’s plenty of room to be able to at least point people to those forms on an app or using technology in a more appropriate way to be able to understand what people’s responsibilities is.
One of the other things that the office does, of course, in scheduling courtrooms, is to make sure that people know when their court dates are. And also to make sure if somebody’s called for jury duty, that they show up for jury duty. And some of those things don’t go very well for a lot of people. Jury duty has been fraught with issues in the last year or so. And this is coming out of the pandemic, not in throes of it. People wound up having to be hauled in front of a judge because they did not show up for jury duty because the instruction that they received was unclear and the response that they got was ambiguous in some way or was nonexistent.
And there’s been some media coverage of that in this past year, that the judges are not very happy about that and neither are the people who wound up having to be dragged in front of a judge to answer on account for themselves without being held in contempt of court.
Now, if you have a court date pending, you need to know when that date is. You need to be able to also – if you need to change it – to be able to file for a continuance to say, “Hey, I can’t come in on Thursday.” And right now you can’t get to that information in an easy way. And that has resulted in huge costs of taxpayer dollars because if somebody doesn’t know when their court date is and they miss it… and law enforcement pulls them over for say, a broken tail line, that’ll pop right up onto law enforcement screen and say, “Oh, you have failed to appear for your court date.” So now we’re going to leave your car here and you’re coming with me and I’m gonna drive you from whatever corner of Lancaster County this happens in, all the way back to the county jail here in Lincoln until you can get in front of a judge. Our law enforcement should not be a taxi service. This is a waste of taxpayer money.
And, as a result, law enforcement has tried to take some of those things into their own hands and developed an app to do that. But that app is not something that pops up when you open the Clerk of the District Courts Office’s webpage. And that should probably be there and it should… people should be able to be directed to that. Because that’s a simple thing and it should be more than just people who have law degrees who can get to that information.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, I’m sure that the offices already have their own security system in place, but how do you plan to manage and uphold the integrity of that security system?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: Well, we have a really fine IT department at the city and county. And I’ve worked with them for many, many years and I’ve worked with them to develop a whole bunch of solutions and systems to keep track of things and we have a really good system in place.
I won’t say it’s perfect because, certainly, even if CHI Health can get hacked and ransomware, we know it’s possible for that to happen anywhere. But I think that the systems that they have in place are pretty solid. And I don’t know that I would change anything.
And the clerk of the district court is like some of the other county offices. While it’s a county office, a lot of its functions are directly tied to the state of Nebraska. Just like the County Treasurer’s Office actually manages DMV stuff, your car licensing and all of that. And so those systems are in place by the state. And so there’s not a lot of flexibility to change some of those things on the county level other than to make sure whatever security we have is as tight as we can make it be as well. And I’m pretty confident about that, that we have that covered.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: As we mentioned, accessibility is gonna be one of your primary focuses as well.
Now, currently, self representing litigants may only file paper documents and all attorneys moved to mandatory e-filing on January 1 of this last year. Is one of the aspects of accessibility for you going to be combining so that no matter what type of filing you are doing, you can do it in-person or e-filing?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: Well, you know, certainly I would wanna work with the Supreme Court on those issues. If their current work is any indication, that’s the direction that I think they are wanting to go in. And that’s a good one.
I also plan to establish relationships with our non-profit legal helping agencies like Legal Aid. Because they can certainly come in and assist people and be directed to them and actually have a kiosk – which had been done some years ago and has been discontinued. But we need to have that kind of interface, where there can be some kind of free legal help for people who need an attorney and need that guidance.
We have had some successes on a different level, on the city level, by having law students assist people who are facing eviction. And they’re just right there in the courthouse and helping people. And I think that there’s a lot of opportunities to do that through, you know, volunteer lawyers, projects through UNL. All sorts of things to be able to have people assisting who are qualified to do so for some of our folks that need that help.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then last question. In this position you would be working with a variety of entities. What do you feel could be done to improve your relationship with those other agencies and entities?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: To listen. Yeah. Listen and respond and work with those institutions and officers of the court.
That means all the attorneys, all of their legal staffs, and all of the day-to-day interactions that happen, where somebody says, you know, “You could have filed that differently. That piece of paper should have been over here.” And it, maybe, it was over here. And those kinds of nuts and bolts kinds of things, about how to make efficiency happen and how to make government more smooth, function more smoothly.
And that’s something I have a good deal of experience with at the city. And my ability to listen and to be able to actively problem solve with departments has resulted us, at the city, going from six weeks to three months to process building permits and development things to less than two weeks because now we have a development services center. And that ties into the app that I help create for the city to be able to do that kind of business with the city in a really fast and efficient manner. And I can do that with the clerk of the District Court’s office as well, to the extent that I am.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: But is there anything else that you think voters need to know?
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: Well. I’m also a pastor to a small church here in town and I think that having a background of caring is really important to be able to do this job well and to be able to see people for who they are and to be able to have empathy and to assist people and to have a background that is very intent on doing the right thing.
That’s where I come from. That’s the point that I come from.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well. Thank you so much for joining us today, especially since I know you have a busy schedule. I imagine campaigning right now is very stressful.
Lin Quenzer, Democratic Candidate for the Clerk of the District Court: It is, it is very much. And I very much appreciate this opportunity.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: We are fast approaching the end of the hour, so here are your reminders for today;
The KZUM newsroom is always open to hearing about any questions, concerns, suggestions, or even any story ideas that you want to share with us. All you have to do is give us a call at (402) 474 – 5086, extension line six. If you give us a call and we aren’t available, don’t forget to leave a voicemail. Or, if you aren’t much of a phone person, you can also find our social media handles and more newsroom information at kzum.org under that ‘About’ tab.
Speaking of our website, if you happen to miss a show, you can always head to the “KZUM News” tab where we archive all of our shows and include a transcript with links to that day’s content.
And, lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to Jack Rodenburg of the Rodenburg music experience. He put together all of the amazing original music that our news program uses. So, once again, thank you, Jack.
That wraps up our reminders for now. As you head out into the world, I hope you have a lovely day. Thank you for listening and we hope you’ll join us next time.
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