By Rhonda Petersen
The incumbent faces a familiar opponent in the race for Hill County treasurer/assessor.
Democrat Carrie Dickson's opponent is her former co-worker, Kathleen "Kitty" Galbavy-Williams. Dickson defeated Galbavy-Williams in the June Democratic primary. Galbavy-Williams jumped back into the race on Oct. 18 when she filed as a write-in candidate with the endorsement of the Hill County Republican Central Committee.
Dickson's original opponent in the November election was Republican Wanda Mork. Mork withdrew from the race on Oct. 14, citing family obligations as the reason. Mork's name will still appear on the ballot since she withdrew from the race too late to have it removed.
At the time of the filing, Hill County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brad Lotton alleged that Mork had planned to drop out of the race if Dickson defeated Galbavy-Williams in the Democratic primary so that Dickson and Mork, who is the deputy county treasurer, would both keep their jobs.
Zella Witter, Mork's campaign treasurer, echoed that accusation in a letter to the editor. Witter said that Mork and Dickson told her that Mork would not need to campaign unless Galbavy-Williams defeated Dickson in the primary.
Dickson and Mork have both denied the allegations.
Dickson, 40, is seeking her third term as treasurer/assessor.
Dickson was born in Wisconsin. She moved to Whitefish when her father, who worked for the railroad, was transferred, and she graduated from Whitefish High School. She also earned an associate's degree in accounting from Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore.
Dickson moved to Havre more than 20 years ago to be closer to her ailing mother. Dickson, who is divorced, is the mother of an 11-year-old son.
Dickson has been a Hill County employee for 13 years. In 1989, Dickson went to work in the sheriff's office as a dispatcher for a few months before going to work as a clerk in the treasurer's office. Dickson was elected treasurer/assessor in 1994 and re-elected in 1998.
Dickson decided to run for a third term because she enjoys her job and the people who work in the treasurer's office.
As treasurer, Dickson's duties include overseeing county and school bookkeeping and investments. The treasurer also collects all taxes for the county.
Dickson believes her years of experience in performing the various duties of treasurer/assessor are invaluable.
"It's very vital to know what you're doing." she said.
One of her accomplishments as treasurer was bringing the state treasurers' convention to Havre in 2000, bringing more than 300 people to Havre.
Galbavy-Williams is making her second attempt to unseat Dickson. In fact, she's using the same campaign signs from the June primary with a few modifications. The Democratic donkey has been covered over with a sticker that has the word Vote with a picture of an elephant.
When she filed last spring, Galbavy-Williams alleged that she had been wrongfully terminated from her position in the treasurer's office for questioning the integrity of her boss, Dickson. The accusations stemmed in part from Dickson's handling of a fund used to balance accounts and purchase items for the office. Galbavy-Williams, in a letter sent to Dickson, Hill County Attorney David Rice and the Hill County Commission in April 2001, alleged that the fund had been "improperly used for personal benefit of the treasurer." Rice investigated the claim and determined that while Dickson's handling of the fund had been inappropriate, it had not been illegal. Rice encouraged Dickson to close the fund.
In May 2001, Dickson suspended Galbavy-Williams for nine weeks with pay while her duties and conduct as clerk were investigated. Galbavy-Williams was terminated in October 2001 from her position as a clerk in the treasurer's office following a review of her case by a three person panel composed of former state Rep. Ray Peck, Hill County Superintendent of Schools Shirley Isbell and Lynda Taplin, a vice president at Heritage Bank.
Dickson said she can't comment on why Galbavy-Williams was fired.
Galbavy-Williams declined a recent request for an interview, citing her work hours as a teacher's assistant. In a candidate questionnaire, she identified the top two issues facing the office of treasurer as customer service and an overstaffed office. Galbavy-Williams said she would cross-train all employees in the department and eliminate overstaffing by attrition.
Prior to working in the county treasurer's office for eight years, Galbavy-Williams worked as a bus driver and as office manager at Badlands Tree & Landscaping.
Galbavy-Williams faces different voter requirements as a write-in candidate. According to Hill County Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem, two qualifications must be met in order for a write-in vote to count. First, the voter must write the name of the candidate in the appropriate place. When a write-in candidate files, they submit to the clerk and recorder a list of name variations including alternative spellings. If a voter writes a variation of the candidate's name that is not on the list, the vote will not count. Mellem also said the voter must write "more than a first name and more than a last name."
Second, the voter must connect the arrow in front of the candidate's name. If the arrow is not connected but the candidate's name is written, the vote does not count. Mellem said that voters can bring labels with the write-in candidate's name but advised voters if they use a label to make sure the labels are securely attached in the correct place so the labels don't come off in the ballot box or the counting machine.
The winner in the treasurer's race will earn $32,423.68 a year.