In 2016, Julie Ellison won more than half of the votes in a four-way primary race for treasurer and moved onto the ballot as the lone candidate in November’s general election.
In 2020, while the one-term incumbent will again be the sole candidate on the ballot in November, she faces a write-in challenger, John Day police officer Sam Stinnett.
“I want to continue to use my experience and knowledge for the citizens of our wonderful County,” she said.
From working with the commissioners on the budget committee to increase the county’s contingency fund — cash the county keeps on hand in case of emergencies — and setting up direct deposit for the county’s employees, Ellison said her first term has been busy.
The pandemic has made her office even busier.
She said her office has been tracking COVID-19-related expenditures from county departments that have requested coronavirus relief funds and ensuring those purchases include corresponding documentation.
Like any other request for funds, she said, they must go before the court for approval. Ellison said, if her office cannot verify documentation, she will not disperse the money.
According to Oregon statutes, she said the county treasurer is responsible for receiving, dispersing and investing all monies belonging to the county.
She said her office operates within the law and the policy the county commissioners set.
“That’s all I can do,” she said. “I can’t go outside of that.”
She said she welcomes anyone in the community to drop by the office if they have questions.
“I try to be as transparent as possible,” she said. “My door is open if you want to come and look at something. I’ll show you anything I have.”
Ellison, who grew up in Grant County, was a bookkeeper for Jackson Oil for 26 years and then Ed Staub & Sons for four years.
Her career with the county began in 2014 as deputy clerk in the County Clerk’s Office. Ellison said her duties in the clerk’s office often overlapped with her predecessor, longtime treasurer Kathy Smith.
Ellison said, when Smith announced her retirement, she decided to throw her hat in the ring.
“I knew all the claims process, which half of it is done by the treasurer,” she said. “I knew a lot of information coming in, the accounts, the account numbers, all the departments.”
Ellison said, after her primary win in May, she spent her lunch breaks with Smith to prepare for her first day in office at the start of 2017.
“I learned a lot of stuff in those hours every day,” she said
She said the tasks on her first day included calculating complicated tax turnovers, a multi-step process that one must know coming in the door.
“If you don’t know how to do that, I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s about 100 steps.”
She said roughly half of her job is preparing for the budget, which she works on from January to June.
Ellison said she will continue to work with the court and budget committee to increase the county’s contingency fund.
She said she wants the county to have a cushion if it does not receive its federal “Payment in lieu of Taxes,” an annual payment local governments receive to help offset losses in property tax revenue because of federal lands.
“I don’t know that I can get it that way,” she said. “But I would love for it to be as big as what they think PILT will be, so that if we didn’t get it would be OK.”
The federal government cuts PILT checks in June, just as she’s completed the budget.
“The budget is basically done, and I’ve put PILT into the budget because I’m assured we’re going to get it,” she said. “But if we didn’t get it one year, it would be devastating.”
Ellison said, with so much to learn and do, its hard to say what her biggest accomplishment has been in her first term.
“It’s hard to say you get accomplishments in one term,” she said. “There is so much.”
However, she said, the county, up until a month ago, was not in the “digital age,” but now with direct deposit for half of the employees, the county and employees are saving time and money.
“Everybody loves it,” she said. “They’re so thrilled with it.”
She said that is roughly 60 checks the county does not have to write and sign.
“We don’t have to print a physical check so that’s saving money,” she said. “That’s a time saver too besides money.”
Ellison said she wants to “continue to do what I’ve been doing and continue to make it better.”
“My focus,” she said, “is on protecting and keeping our principal balance and prioritizing the services that the county’s citizens value the most and ensure the county’s financial health.”