By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
Ellis County Treasurer candidate Sherry Dryden believes her experience and temperament make her the right person to bring stability to the office.
Dryden has lived and worked in Ellis County for the past 39 years and has severed in a variety of roles during that time, including working in human resources management, project management, serving on the USD 489 school board and as the executive director of two Kansas nonprofit groups.
After serving as the executive director for the United Way of Ellis County for four years, Dryden most recently has been the executive director of the Central and Western Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross and served in that role for just shy of a year.
Dryden will face Vernon Ruder Jr. and incumbent Lisa Schlegel in Tuesday's Republican primary.
Dryden said working in those positions has allowed her to develop several skills that are similar to the duties the treasurer performs.
“Everywhere I’ve worked, we’ve always had to work with budgets,” Dryden said. “Not just establishing the budget, but working with your various accounts, accounts payables (and) receivables and collections.”
She said that experience will also make it easy for her to be able to work with the commission to set the treasurer’s department budget each year.
Dryden also pointed to her work with a finance commission while the executive director of the United Way as an example of her ability to make sound financial decisions for Ellis County.
Funds are now allocated through a two-year process that allows agencies to know exactly how much money they are going to receive, because Dryden said those funds that are raised are what is allocated to the agencies.
The agency used to pre-promise funds to the agencies and, if the United Way failed to raise the necessary funds, agencies were left scrambling to adjust their budgets.
They also addressed some of their investment issues to develop a contingency plan to help in years where the money raised may have been less than expected.
Dryden said one of the biggest reasons she is running for the county treasurer position is to restore the office after several years of disorder.
“I want to restore the treasurer’s department with trust, transparency, morals, ethics, professionalism and teamwork,” Dryden said. “What I’ve experienced and what I’ve learned from others I have become frustrated.”
Dryden said she will also stress communication within the office. She said they have had negative experiences with the treasurer’s department and she said when speaking with Ellis County voters she believes she is not alone.
She said she doesn’t blame the treasury staff; she instead believes the current training lacks in some areas.
“I really feel the treasurer needs to make sure they are delivering customer service support with their staff,” Dryden said.
“I will be a working treasurer who will be right there beside staff,” Dryden said. “I want to ensure that I learn every staff’s job duties and functions.”
If elected, Dryden said transparency will be a priority for the office, and she said the treasurer needs to be seen in a positive light.
“At any given time, on any given business day, what are the records of the finances of the county?” Dryden said. “That needs to be available upon request. That is critical in ensuring trust and transparency.”
Dryden said she has been talking with treasurers across the state and wants to implement an open-door policy that many of them have implemented.
“Having that open-door policy for all is going to be an asset that can only make this department stronger,” Dryden said.
She said two of the treasurers she has been working with during the campaign have already volunteered to work with her is she is elected.
Dryden said she is asked often by Ellis County residents about the very public incident between Ellis County Commissioner Butch Schlyer and current Treasurer Lisa Schlegel. Schlegel was eventually escorted from the meeting at Schlyer’s request.
Dryden said she would have never let the situation get out of hand the way it did.
“I would not have allowed it to escalate to the level that it did,” Dryden said. “That is key in being about to work through conflict.”
“To me, leadership is actions,” Dryden said. “A full leader is one that gains trust through their actions, is fully transparent and will accept feedback and work through any conflict.”
If elected, Dryden would like to create a finance committee that allows the department to explore financial growth opportunities.
According to Dryden, the goal of the committee would be to “ensure fair and equitable opportunities for all financial opportunities for all financial institutions in our area.”
She said the investments must also be reviewed on a regular basis.
“Are we truly getting the best investments?”
Dryden also wants to treasurer’s office to be involved in the grant process in Ellis County.
She believes that her experience working with grants in her prior positions will be an asset to the county.
Dryden said she believes the treasurer’s office can help administer grants that Ellis County has received but also can work with other positions to help with financial planning for grant funds.
“I really think the treasurer’s office should be a very strong partner in helping with all grants in Ellis County,” Dryden said.
Schlegel has attacked Dryden because her husband worked for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, but Dryden confirmed that he retired from the department in June.
Dryden has also been attacked for her relationship with Deputy County Clerk Bobbie Dreiling. Dreiling is the only Republican candidate for county clerk.
Dryden shrugged off both allegations and said she has only known Dreiling for a few months.
On social media, Schlegel has also claimed that Dreiling helped Dryden falsify the form in which candidates obtain signatures to file for office. Dryden strongly denies the accusation and said even though she collected more than 300 signatures, when she only needed 250, she elected to pay to filing fee instead of continuing to collect signatures because of the governor’s statewide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for Schlegel’s attacks, Dyden said she hasn’t really paid attention to them and said she does not need to defend herself.
“People who would rather spend their time pointing their fingers at non-pertinent information shows that they would rather point fingers than run their department,” Dryden said.
Dryden added, “I feel my rounded experience would be able to
re-establish pride in the department for Ellis County.”