PITTSBURG — Candidates for Crawford County Clerk and Register of Deeds gathered at the Pittsburg Law Enforcement Center for a candidate forum Thursday.

The Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and The Morning Sun hosted the forum, which gave candidates the opportunity to discuss why they are the best candidate for their respective positions, as well as answer questions from the public.

The forum was moderated by Chamber President Blake Benson and proctored by Morning Sun Managing Editor Patrick Richardson.

“This is not necessarily a debate, but a great opportunity for candidates to speak about their views on certain subjects,” Benson said.

The first session included Democratic Candidate Don Pyle and Republican Candidate Liz Hart. The two will face each other this November in the race for Crawford County Clerk.

Pyle is the current county clerk and has served in the office for nearly 12 years. During the forum he discussed his prior experience as an accountant and in the clerk’s office, as well has his connections in the county.

Hart currently serves as the Crawford County Road and Bridge Director. She has previously worked in the clerk’s office and worked for a technology education company for seven years.

Hart and Pyle both told attendees about potential changes they would make in the clerk’s office.

Pyle said he would like to look into new election equipment and talked about county budgeting.

“In 2009 I took over preparing the county budget,” Pyle said. “Before that it was done by an outside accountant and cost the county around $6,000.”

Hart said she would like to implement cross-training for all clerk’s office employees so they will be trained in all aspects of the clerk’s office. She also said she would like to re-establish polling places in Walnut and Hepler, as well as look into new hiring procedures.

The two candidates also touched on challenges facing the county.

Hart said recent perceptions about Crawford County are a challenge.

“I feel that the biggest challenge we are facing is a recent report that labeled Crawford County the poorest county in the state,” Hart said. “If elected I will make sure to spend county dollars wisely.”

Pyle focused on the state’s reduction of funding for certain services.

“We need to find ways other than property tax to fund these services,” He said. “I believe my accounting experience will help me find ways to provide those services without putting a burden on the taxpayers.”

Register of Deeds candidates Sandy Casey and Brent Bedene took part in the second forum session.

Casey currently works in the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and previously worked as a paralegal at a law firm in Pittsburg. She will be on the democratic ticket November 8.

Casey said she has experience dealing with and interpreting state statutes from her time in the sheriff’s office, as well as her time as a paralegal. She said this experience will help her work with state laws in the register of deeds office.

She discussed bringing attention to the register of deeds office by reviewing the online records system and giving presentations to businesses and students in the county.

“If elected I would improve focus by providing excellent public service,” Casey said. “I would be  very hands-on register of deeds.”

Bedene is the republican candidate for register of deeds. He focused on his 47 years of banking experience during the forum.

He said he has served as a Chief Executive Officer and dealt with state and federal regulation in record keeping during his time in the banking industry. He said his first priority will be to learn the policies and procedures of the register of deeds office.

“I believe the citizens of Crawford County have the opportunity to elect a very qualified candidate for register of deeds,” Bedene said. “I believe I am that candidate with 47 years of service dealing with deeds and mortgages, and I’ve always been held accountable to being accurate.”

A second forum will take place at The Pittsburg Law Enforcement Center on Oct. 27. The second forum will host Kansas Senate District 13 candidates, Jake LaTurner and Lynn Grant.  and Kansas House of Representatives District Three candidates, Monica Murnan and Chuck Smith.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.