There are four Republican candidates and one Democrat seeking the position of clerk and recorder for Richland County. The primary election is June 8.

Republican candidates are Debra Gilbert, Kathy Sweley, Stephanie Verhasselt and Kris Weltikol. Also on the ballot is Paula Steinbeisser, but she has announced she is no longer an active candidate.

Peggy McDowell is the lone Democrat seeking the position that is currently held by Penni Lewis.

Personal background

Gilbert: I was born and raised in Roundup. My husband, Rob, and I moved to Sidney the first of February 1978 during one of the coldest and snowiest winters. My husband and I have one son, Rob III, who is also active in this great community as a volunteer fireman. He spent years as an EMT while my husband remains a first responder to be able to assist ambulance personnel.

Sweley: Lived in Sidney for 15 years; originally from Cut Bank; married to John Sweley; have four grown children, three boys and one girl; have a grandson

Verhasselt: I was born and raised in Sidney. My parents are Don and Linda Byer. I have three younger sisters, Samantha, Sarah and Michelle. I am married to Justin Verhasselt, and we have two boys, Parker and Brody. I attended Sidney Public Schools and graduated from Sidney Senior High School. I then attended Minot State University and then transferred to Dickinson State University where I studied accounting. I am a member of St. Matthew’s Church.

Weltikol: I was born and raised in Billings. I am the youngest of four; two brothers and a sister. Mom still lives in the house I was brought home to when born. Graduated and moved to Scobey in 1978. Married and moved to Sidney in 1979. Worked for a seismograph company and moved from all points between Crosby N.D., and Sterling, Colo. Landed back in Sidney in 1980. I have one son, Levi.

McDowell: 1976 graduate from Kindred High School, Kindred N.D. I also attended Montana State University in Bozeman. I have lived in Sidney for 17 years, and I have two grown sons Brady and Bryan and one grandson, and I am engaged to be married this summer to John Errecart.



Gilbert: Being the youngest of five siblings, I learned at an early age, by observing my older sister and brothers work, that if I wanted something bad enough, I needed to work hard to get it. My office career began in 1980 when I was given the opportunity to work in the operations department at Holly Sugar. After six campaigns, I ventured out into other office positions. I was offered an office management position with Gem City Motors. I then moved into finance and insurance at Action Auto — “Quick Cash Deb” as I am still referred to by some. In 2001 I was hired by Richland County Housing Authority to do occupancy and admissions for Crestwood Inn. My responsibilities at Crestwood are to maintain compliance with the Housing and Urban Development rules along with the many other duties of maintaining an office such as accounts payable, receivables, voucher submissions, reconciliations, lease and renewals. etc. One very important component is record keeping. Files must be maintained and be orderly for audits from more than one entity.

In April 2006, I began a part-time career with SightLife, formerly known as Northwest Lions Eye Bank, as an eye technician. I held a state and national license as an emergency medical technician for 20 years and having the opportunity to be part of giving one of the greatest gifts, “The Gift of Sight,” to someone with corneal disease was something I just couldn’t pass up.

Sweley: Six years as factory accountant in charge of 450 member payroll, five years as payroll supervisor at Sidney Health Center in charge of 550 member payroll, both payrolls were biweekly. I was also office accountant for general contractor who built HUD homes outside of Havre.

Verhasselt: I currently work at the clerk and recorder’s office as the chief deputy clerk and recorder/payroll and benefits clerk. I have worked there for over seven years. Some of my current duties are payroll, quarterly reports, insurance, W-2s,and commissioners minutes. I have assisted in the budgeting process and helped with coordinating elections. I have attended trainings in payroll, GASB, which pertains to the annual report and legislative update. Other areas I have worked in the office are recording and accounts payable. At any time, if needed, I am able to help out with the many areas in our office without problems. I currently serve on the safety committee, health committee, the tax appeal board as the secretary, and I graduated from the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Leadership Class of 2007. Before I began working at the clerk & recorder’s office, I worked at Culligan Water Conditioning and State Farm Insurance.

Weltikol: While in high school, I held a few different jobs, from being a fry cook at an A & W, to waitressing at Country Kitchen, and I worked at K-Mart as a check-out person. I started my public service when I was a dispatcher for Daniels County. I then worked in the oil field, where I worked my way up from the “jug line” to the field office clerk. As office clerk, I was responsible for accounts payable, invoicing, payroll and permit checks. When the oil field slowed we settled in Sidney, where I found myself back in public service. I worked as court clerk for Judge Edna Brown; I also did duties under the city clerk, Ethel Sobolik. Upon Judge Brown’s resignation, I was appointed city judge. This is a position that I held for three years until the city court was consolidated with justice court due to the decline of population. In January 1990, I was hired to be the fair manager of Richland County, a job I held until May of 2006. I also served as county planner for one year. I worked at the Twin Falls County Fair and Stampede for a short while before returning to Billings. I returned to Sidney in August of 2007 and am working at Tri County Implement as a parts person.

McDowell: In my lifetime I have been employed as a bank teller, a dental assistant, retail sales, bookkeeper and a business owner for 17 years where I was responsible for all accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll, before starting my current position at the clerk and recorder’s office in June of 2003.

Political experience

Gilbert: I have just begun my third, four-year term with the Sidney City Council as an elected alderman for ward II. I am currently the chair of human resources and have in the past been voted as president of the council. I hold an appointment to the Richland County Public Library board.

Sweley: No answer

Verhaselt: I have been learning about politics through the years I have worked in the clerk and recorder’s office by working with elections and have seen how they are ran and the importance of being informed on the issues. I have started attending the Republican meetings and plan to continue attending the meetings to keep informed.

Weltikol: I don’t know that I have what would be called political experience other then working in the positions I worked in the past. I have worked with the city council and county commissioners for many years, and we seemed to have gotten things done.

McDowell: I have never held a political position before but have always been a proud and contentious voter.


service involvement

Gilbert: Adult Protective Services; Richland Transportation Committee; The Special Needs Population; CPR and first aid instructor; Action for Eastern Montana; Commission on Aging; charter member of the Richland County Community Foundation; member of the MonDak Heritage Center.

Sweley: No answer

Verhasselt: I have assisted Virginia Dschaack with the Sidney Eaglette Drill team for two years. I was a member of Beta for a couple years. I try to help out different benefits when I am able to volunteer, and I volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels.

Weltikol: I am a member of Pella Lutheran Church. I was a foster parent for a few years. I was a 4-H leader for several years and am a past member of the Sidney Jaycees; really enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks!! I was an active member of the Sidney Chamber and Agriculture, graduating in the first leadership class that they offered. Also served on the founding board of the Boys and Girls Club of Richland County. I served on the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs Board and am a past president of that organization.

McDowell: I was a very active member of Richland Youth Hockey for 15 years and served on the hockey board. Current member of A.B.A.T.E. of Montana, and I am also a 2005 graduate of the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture Leadership class.


Gilbert: I have had many hobbies throughout the years but the most important hobby is spending time with my family.

Sweley: Love to cook, especially Sunday family dinners. Love spending time with my grandson and kids. Enjoy making jewelry, solving Sudoku and playing Mahjong.

Verhasselt: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Anything I can do with my kids, whether it be taking them for walks, bike rides to the park or just spending time with them at home. I enjoy going to my exercise class twice a week. I enjoy going to high school basketball/football games.

Weltikol: Hobbies are few. I do sewing, some knitting and play cards. I enjoy walking and reading. I treasure spending time with family and friends.

McDowell: I love to work in my yard in the summer, camping and fishing with my kids, and spending time with friends.

Why do you wish to serve in public office?

Gilbert: I feel I have a lot of background in both political, state and federal compliance performance to be able to complete the task of clerk and recorder.

Sweley: Public office is very similar to what I have already accomplished. To be specific, when you do large payrolls every move you make is watched, discussed and judged very critically. You work in a fishbowl. In this atmosphere, when you make mistakes your fellow employees may lose faith in your abilities and will keep hounding you and will point out errors even when there aren’t any. This is where you must know your job well to stay in control of fellow employees and to stay in control of your duties. Accuracy and timeliness are everything. This is what I have accomplished and wish to share my extensive experience. We all want our county office run expertly, professionally and successfully, especially me.

Verhasselt: I have been working toward this for over six years now and feel that this is a very important position, and I will put in the time and attention that this position deserves by being a very present clerk and recorder working hard every day. I know what this job entails, and I believe I can do the best job with my knowledge and working experience. I feel it would be a great honor to serve my community as your next clerk and recorder.

Weltikol: I feel that I can make a difference. That is the reason I have always gotten involved in anything I have done.

McDowell: I feel that the clerk and recorder’s office is the hub of the county with managing the county budgets, the annual report, fixed assets, vital records, document recordation, payroll, elections and secretaries to the county commissioners. I love my job at the clerk and recorder’s office, and I am very proud of all that is done at our office. My title at the office is the accounts payable clerk, which entails working with all the department heads and the commissioners on the expenses of the county each month, I also take care of all the fixed assets of the county which is an inventory of all county owned machinery, equipment and property with a value of $5,000 or more, this is also a large part of the annual report in which I work with the auditors. I also do the clerk and recorder’s part of the tax deed property process and work closely with the county attorney Mike Weber and the county treasurer Sandy Christensen to see the process thru. I help with the recording of the many documents that come into our office each day, and I am always ready and willing to help the land men and the public with any questions they may have. With all the oil activity in Richland County our office is very busy, and we will have anywhere from two to 20 land people working in our office every day. I feel I have the experience needed and necessary to make the transition from the present clerk and recorder to becoming the new clerk and recorder a very smooth transition and do not feel there would be any need for change in the day-to-day operations of the office. I would be honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Richland County as the next clerk and recorder and would take pride in running the office in the most efficient and effective way, ensuring all county records are accurate, current and available for the public to view.

What unique attributes

do you possess?

Gilbert: Knowledge, experience and community involvement to enhance the well-being of Richland County.

Sweley: I am very proud of my educational background. My four-year degree includes the completion of the following classes and has given me depth and breadth for a more sophisticated accounting background: Two semesters of principles of accounting; two semesters of intermediatea accounting; two semesters of cost accounting, business law, micro and macro economics. There were many more classes, these were the high points.

Another unique attribute I possess is the technical ability to decipher and manipulate software and software issues. Every office position I held underwent major software changes. This can be very exhausting to employees of large businesses. Some employees quit because of this. They can’t stand the change. I am not only experienced in these major changes but am largely instrumental in getting everyone through it. Computerization is always quickly changing. Skills must be kept up.

Verhasselt: I have working knowledge of the office and all of the programs we use. I have experience in every aspect of the job. I am very dedicated to this position and will always put my best foot forward and do the job correctly and in a timely manner. I am caring, honest and always willing to listen and learn to make the best decisions possible. If elected, the office will be able to continue day to day operations without interruption. With technology becoming a more important part of the office I feel that I have the confidence and knowledge to face the upcoming technology and embrace it to better serve our community. I am very open to change and will keep our office up to date in all aspects.

Weltikol: My attributes are my leadership qualities and my ability to communicate well with people. I possess organizational skills and provide great customer service. I have years of preparing and monitoring budgets. I have always enjoyed that part of my jobs; the crunching of numbers.

McDowell: I feel I am kind, honest, hard working, easy to get along with, and work well with others as a team, and dedicated to my position. I enjoy meeting and helping people from all walks of life and feel quality customer service is very important. I work well under pressure, and with as busy as the clerk and recorder’s office is these days, this is a valuable attribute. My family is grown and settled so I feel I would be able to dedicate the time needed for this position.

How would you help keep the county informed about public matters?

Gilbert: This is something I would have to look into as records are personal and private information.

Sweley: Currently, commissioner’s meeting minutes are posted on the Internet for the public to view. I would comply and certainly keep this timely. For those not interested in the Internet , perhaps a hard copy could be printed out for them. This would constitute the majority, if not all, of the county matters.

Verhasselt: There are many county matters that legally must be put in the newspaper so I would make sure that was done properly, and I would also use the county web page because that is a great way to inform the public.

Weltikol: I believe in an open door policy. People would always be welcome to my office. Any information that is public is that; public.

McDowell: My priorities would be to maintain the Commissioner’s minutes up to date in our office and on the county website, continue to keep all the county records current and accurate and be available to answer any questions that come to our office, and if I do not have the information I would be sure to research the issue until we did have an answer.

What are some of your goals if you do become clerk and recorder?

Gilbert: My goal would be to do my best to keep all records up to date and in compliance with state and local laws. I feel training is essential to keeping office personnel up to date on current law changes and compliant issues. I would keep an informed office staff.

Sweley: Researching improvements in all aspects of policy and office procedures; utilizing software to its fullest potentials; achieving zero or close to zero deficiencies on county audits; work well with all agencies and government offices; take part in any educational improvement opportunities and encourage staff to do so

Verhasselt: If elected clerk and recorder, I plan on keeping up with the annual report and budgets and staying on top of the commissioners minutes and filings. I would also like to help them keep their items organized by priority. I plan on staying informed on payroll, elections, recording and accounts payable and making sure there is always one or more persons that can help out in all positions if needed. Another goal would be to make sure all office employees are informed as to what is going on in the office so that we can function more smoothly. I will continue a good working relationship with the commissioners and the other offices of the county. Another item I feel is important is keeping a good working relationship with the landmen in our county and by making our office easy for them to work in.

Weltikol: With my leadership I can offer guidance for the employees and work on commuications between the public, other county departments and with the commissioners. I want to restore the trust the citizens of Richland County deserve because I will work for the people of Richland County.

McDowell: If I have the opportunity to serve in this position, I will continue to work to improve customer service and communication in the office. I also feel there is a need for reorganization of some of the old county documents to make them easier to access, and with the courthouse remodel this should be easily attainable. Technology is changing all the time, and I would work hard to keep the office up to speed with any upcoming technology that would make the office more efficient.