Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

Douglas County treasurer to retire

January 16, 2004


Douglas County Treasurer Pat Wells won't seek re-election in November, opting to retire when her second four-year term expires in October 2005.

"I've worked 38 years in the public sector," Wells said. "I think it's time to retire and enjoy it while my husband and I still can."

Wells, 56 and a Democrat, won her first election in 1996 and took office in 1997, upon the retirement of Nancy Hempen. Wells worked as Hempen's deputy treasurer from 1985 to 1990.

As treasurer, Wells oversaw the establishment of satellite offices in Lawrence and Baldwin. Today she oversees 20 employees, manages an annual budget of $375,000 and handles responsibilities that include collecting taxes, issuing license plates and investing idle county funds.

At the height of tax-collection season, the office has as much as $30 million in its account.

In recent years, Wells found herself under fire for her management of the office. One audit revealed that she improperly left blank, signed checks in the office, and it said she had left as much as $2.8 million in county funds unsecured, in violation of state law.

Douglas County commissioners eventually formed an Investment Advisory Committee to keep tabs on Wells' work. Commissioners also closed the treasurer's satellite office in Baldwin, against Wells' wishes.

Thursday, Wells said the past had nothing to do with her decision to retire, now 38 years after she started work as a secretary in the Lawrence school district and after more than a dozen years in the Treasurer's Office.

"I'm looking forward to being a wife and a mother and a grandmother and doing all the things you do when you're retired," she said.

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