By Sarah Wright
SYRACUSE — A caucus was held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, to determine Syracuse’s current Clerk-Treasurer Paula E. Kehr-Wicker’s replacement. Kehr-Wicker had submitted her resignation Wednesday, Aug. 5, resulting in the need for a caucus election to fill the vacancy for the remaining unexpired term, ending Dec. 31, 2023. Her resignation will become effective Sept. 27.
Republican precinct committee-persons in Turkey Creek 2, 3, 4 and 5 — Kimberly Cates, Karin McGarth, Sylvia Gargett and Karen Grady, respectively — cast secret ballots between two candidates, Julie A. Kline and Virginia A. Cazier. Each candidate was given three minutes to present their qualifications.
Julie Kline, who filed first, went first, with an introduction given by Kehr-Wicker. The outgoing clerk-treasurer noted Kline’s service to the community, stating, “She previously devoted over 26 years in the clerk’s office until her retirement at the end of her third term as clerk-treasurer in 2015 when I took over. I believe it is a blessing and a great asset to the town of Syracuse that she is willing to come out of retirement and fulfill the remainder of my term.”
Kline introduced herself and her experience working in the clerk’s office for 26 years — 14 years as deputy clerk and 12 years as clerk-treasurer. “When I was clerk I had a good working relationship with the town council, employees and the public.” She also noted responsibilities and her familiarity with the position’s duties. “I am familiar with the requirements of the position and I am prepared to complete the duties in an accurate and timely manner. If I am appointed, I feel the town of Syracuse will have a smoother transition to a new clerk after Paula’s departure. I really enjoyed my job when I was clerk-treasurer and I pledge to do my best to serve the citizens of the town of Syracuse. I ask you for your support. Thank you.”
Following her remarks, Cazier introduced herself. “I’ve lived in the Syracuse area the majority of my life. I am happily married to Joseph Cazier and together we have a blended family of three adult children, and a baby and a grandbaby on the way.” She continued, “For over 23 years, I have been a loyal and dedicated employee of the town of Syracuse as an assistant to public works director and most recently added more responsibility as assistant to the town manager. I’ve gained experiences in processing claims, invoicing, helping with payroll, permits, budgeting, monthly reports, grant writing — these are a few of the many things I do.” She also highlighted her volunteerism in the community, which included Women of Today, tree board and Syracuse placemaking taskforce.
“I believe in serving, supporting and giving back to our community,” Cazier said. “I enjoy my position of working for the town of Syracuse and I’m very grateful for the time and experience I’ve gained over the years. But I’m ready for a new challenge. I am driven, I’m ambitious, eager to learn, organized and want more for myself and my community. I know this position comes with instructions. With available resources provided, combined with my previous experience, I know I will succeed. Last year, I was the only one of us who fought the primary against the incumbent (Kehr-Wicker). Not only will I finish this term but also the next four terms, if elected. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to working with you in the near future.”
The secret ballots were cast by the precinct committee-persons and then taken from the room with watchers present from each of the two candidates. After the votes were tallied, Mike Ragan, chairman of the Kosciusko County Republican Central Committee, thanked both candidates before announcing Cazier had been appointed as the new clerk-treasurer.
Of her appointment, Cazier said, “I want to cry.”
She noted between now and officially taking over as clerk-treasurer Sept. 27, she will be working with Town Manager Mike Noe to find her replacement as his assistant. She also noted that Kline will be trained as a consultant to help in the clerk’s office during the transition. Through her current role as assistant to Noe, Cazier noted she had become close with Kehr-Wicker and the staff at the clerk’s office.
With the moment still sinking in, Cazier said, “This is a surprise to us and the town.”