Aaron Coole’s first year as Fayette County Auditor has been a time period filled with challenges and accomplishments for the former owner of Sears Hometown Stores in Washington C.H.
Coole said he is proud of what has already been accomplished following his appointment to the office, and that we would like to continue to serve the community by being elected at next Tuesday’s Republican primary.
“I want to serve the people of Fayette County,” Coole said. “I will be a strong advocate for the taxpayers of Fayette County. I think change is good. We need new people involved at all levels of government. I am a strong fiscal conservative. I will not spend any more money than is necessary to do the job the right way.”
Coole was appointed as Fayette County Auditor April 13 by the local Republican central committee following the retirement of former auditor, Mike Smith. Coole was reappointed by the committee a second time Nov. 9 after a civil suit was filed alleging that Coole’s April 13 appointment violated open meeting laws. As part of a settlement, the Republican central committee agreed to hold a re-vote on Nov. 9.
During both appointments, Coole received more votes from the central committee than Brenda Mossbarger — who is also opposing Coole in the primary.
Coole has a four-year bachelors degree in business with a concentration in finance from Mt. Vernon Nazarene University. Before becoming auditor, he spent seven years as owner/operator of a Sears Hometown Store in Washington C.H., and also owned a Sears store in Jackson, Ohio for three years. At Sears, Coole was responsible for all aspects of business operation, including payroll, accounting, employee management and marketing. His Sears stores did around $2 million a year in sales volume, according to Coole.
Prior to owning Sears, Coole spent about 15 years with a company called North Central Insulation — an insulation contractor that services the building industry. Coole said NCI is a very successful company with a good reputation in the industry.
“During my time there I was fortunate enough to help the company grow from a relatively small 12 to 18 person operation, to a multi-state company employing around 200 people,” Coole said. “I spent seven years as a division manager, managing between 20 to 40 employees depending upon the time of year. While at NCI I spent time in payroll, accounting, sales and job bidding.”
Coole is married to Colleen Beatty, a Washington C.H. native, and they have two children, Micah, 7, and Jane Ellen, 6. He is a member of Grace Community Church, where he has served on the finance committee.
Here are Coole’s responses to other questions he was was asked by the Record-Herald:
What first attracted you to the position of Fayette County Auditor?
“When I found out that Mike (Smith) was retiring, it seemed like a good opportunity that I thought fit my skill set. I’ve spent my career in housing and I love numbers and finance, so it seemed like a good fit. I have always had an interest in politics and I keep up with what is going on. It seemed like a chance to serve the people of Fayette County.”
What does your job entail at the auditor’s office?
“As the auditor, I’m basically the administrator of the office. My job is to make sure we have the right people in place to get the job done and serve the taxpayer. My style is hands-on, so I’ve tried to learn every function of the office over the last year. I want to know how to do each particular job and I want to know what is going on. In an office as small as ours, you have to be hands-on and get involved in things. I’m involved daily in what we do.
“I have been blessed with a great staff who has been a tremendous help to me. We have Kelli Dresch in payroll and HR, Chasity Wilson in accounts payable, Beth Long in real estate and CAUV, Tami Campbell in real estate & dog tags, and Rick Mead is my deputy. Rick is handling transfers, pay-ins, and BOR cases, among many other things.”
What have you done to make the auditor’s office a better one for the people of Fayette County?
“Since taking over the office a year ago we have made drastic improvements to the auditor’s website and computer system. When I took over as auditor in May of 2017, we had a real estate software computer conversion that had been going on for eight years at a cost of around $900,000, our real estate transfers were nine months behind being entered, the website hadn’t been updated in almost a year, and the search functions on the website didn’t work. I am proud to say that after one year as the Fayette County Auditor, my team and I have been able to address these issues. We now have a website that you can search. We now have a website that updates nightly. The real estate transfers are now up to date in the system and the software conversion is complete. We have accomplished this at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
“We have also streamlined our processes in the office, which have saved the county close to $100,000 a year in payroll and benefits. We did this by not replacing two employees who left for other opportunities. So we are running the office with five staff members as opposed to the seven staff members we had when I first started.”
“I feel like we are just getting started with the website. There are a lot of additional improvements that I want to make to the website. We’ve made a ton of improvements in one year, but there is a lot more we can do with it. If you spend some time looking at other counties’ auditor websites, you will get some idea of what I’m referring to. These improvements and changes take time.”
If elected, what are your plans for the rest of 2018 and beyond?
“As I mentioned earlier, I want to continue to improve the auditor’s website. This takes time and patience. A taxpayer should be able to go on the website and find out all the valuation and tax information that is relevant to their property. You should also be able to go on the website and find answers to questions that pertain to business conducted in the auditor’s office. We will continue to make website improvements and upgrades.
“Currently, Fayette County is in the middle of a county-wide real estate reevaluation. The state mandates that we do this every six years. We are in the middle of this reassessment and I need to work with the appraisers to see it through to completion.
“I also want to mention that the auditor’s office has a real estate assessment fund with a balance of over 2 million dollars. The real estate assessment fund is funded, per the Ohio Revised Code, by a portion of the real estate tax collection each year. The Fayette County Commissioners also graciously contribute two dollars of every conveyance fee to the fund. The purpose of the fund is to pay for real estate assessment. Once dollars are in the real estate assessment fund, they can be used for real estate assessment purposes only. We can’t transfer money to the general fund, we can’t help pay for EMS or the jail. It’s not allowable by law. The Ohio Revised Code strictly governs how we use money in this fund. However, the law does allow for returning any excess dollars back to the subdivisions from which the money was withheld, after the six-year reevaluation is complete. Since our six-year reevaluation is going on right now and should be finished by the end of the summer, I would like to return some of this money back to the subdivisions by the end of the year, maybe as much as a million dollars. We don’t need the money and we couldn’t spend it if we wanted to. It’s not our money. It belongs to the schools, townships, villages and the city. The subdivisions would receive it proportionately based upon their levies. The bulk of the funds would go to Miami Trace and Washington City Schools.”
Why do you think you’re better suited to this job than your primary election opponent?
“I think we need new people in government. I feel like my 20 years of real world business experience have prepared me for this job. I’ve seen and done a lot of different things. I think change is good and a fresh perspective is what we need. I have been able to be objective when it comes to analyzing the office and what processes need changed, updated and modified. My opponent’s 20 years of experience is in the auditor’s office, my 20 years of experience is in the real business world. The phrase that I’ve heard the most in my first year in office when I question why we are doing something is, ‘We have always done it that way.’ I’ll bet I’ve heard that a hundred times. I want to find the BEST and MOST EFFICIENT way of doing things. One of the first things I did when I became auditor is to visit other counties’ auditor’s offices. I wanted to see how their process compared to ours, what are some common best practices, how can we improve our process and create efficiencies. I learned a lot. There is a difference in perspective.
“I’ve also got a year of real experience as the auditor. I think we’ve done a good job in that one year. We’ve fixed a lot of computer issues and created efficiencies.”
Anything else you would like to relay to the taxpayers?
“I’ve enjoyed driving around Fayette County meeting the taxpayers during this campaign. I think we’ve been in every township, village and city in Fayette County. People have been very accommodating. I’m reminded daily how nice our people are and how beautiful the countryside is around here.
“I am a conservative Republican who will act like a conservative Republican. I know people pay a lot of taxes and work hard for their money. I will be a good steward of every taxpayer dollar. I hope people will see that I want nothing more than to do things the right way as efficiently as we can. I feel like the accomplishments of our first year in office merit a full term.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica