Newcomers face off in controller race

Both candidates have accounting backgrounds but neither has political experience.
MERCER, Pa. -- Safeguarding the taxpayers' dollars is the theme of this year's race for Mercer County controller, which pits two political newcomers against each other.
Tom Amundsen of Hermitage is the Democratic candidate for the county row office while Michelle Smith of Stoneboro has the Republican backing.
They face off in the Nov. 6 general election.
"The county controller is the fiscal watchdog responsible for auditing county expenditures. I have the education and experience in governmental auditing to carry out the duties of the county controller," said Amundsen, adding that incumbent controller Dennis Songer encouraged him to run.
Songer chose not to seek a second term.
Smith, a recent college graduate, said she isn't a newcomer to watching taxpayer dollars.
"I have spent many years aiding my mother [Worth Township Tax Collector Cindy Smith] in the collection of real estate and per capita taxes and have witnessed firsthand the financial burden taxes are to our residents," Smith said, adding, "I will fight for the wise safeguard of our tax dollars."
Qualifications: Amundsen said his 11 years as senior auditor for the U.S. Department of Defense and his experience as the co-founder and manager of a free senior-citizen newspaper makes him the best candidate for the job. He also passed the certified public accountant examination, he said.
Smith, who works in the accounting department of a Sandy Lake-area company, said she has put her accounting, auditing, budgeting, cost analysis and corporate tax abilities to practical use in her job, and that those are vital skills for a controller who must manage the county's fiscal affairs.
"I intend to provide a new perspective and bring fresh ideas on how to effectively and efficiently manage the fiscal affairs of the county, which will help bring the controller's office into the 21st century," Smith said.
Amundsen said he is prepared to keep a tight rein on spending, including managing costs from the construction of a new county jail, the continued renovation of the courthouse and other projects approved by the county commissioners.