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Trustee candidates seek to help neighbors

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Helping residents who are struggling financially is a top priority for the Republican candidates for Hensley Township trustee.

A primary job of the township trustee is to review applications from residents for assistance with utility bills, verify if they qualify for financial aid, and provide money for gas and electric bills, funerals and burials if a person doesn’t have the money to pay those costs.

Beth Baird and Joe Sichting are running for their party’s nomination in the May primary election. Baird is challenging Sichting, who has served as Hensley Township trustee for about 16 years. A Democratic or independent candidate could file to oppose the primary winner in the fall election.

Each of Johnson County’s nine townships has a trustee. The trustee’s duties include referring needy people to food pantries for help, providing tax dollars to help residents who have fallen on hard times, maintaining cemeteries and contracting with local fire departments to offer fire protection in the township. They also help make sure invasive weeds, such as Canada thistle, don’t spread across fields, lawns and gardens.

The trustee also oversees the township’s tax-funded budget, managing township financial

records and filing an annual report with the state. The Hensley Township trustee’s budget is $31,850, more than half of which is set aside to help residents with financial needs.

State lawmakers have considered consolidating small townships or eliminating trusteeships altogether, but the part-time job doesn’t require taxpayers to pay health insurance or other benefits, and residents want to keep the position local, Sichting said.

“They don’t want someone from the county or the state to control this township position because it would be more red tape and it would be more costly to the taxpayers,” he said.

Baird has worked for years managing financial records and budgeting for family businesses, and she said her experience has prepared her to oversee the township budget. She also likes to assist her neighbors, currently volunteering with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to teach schoolchildren about crime prevention.

“I know that I definitely want to take the office to keep a clean budget (and) assist with my neighbors in my community,” Baird said.

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