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COLUMN: Stricter qualifications for political candidates are long overdue

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By Linda Ireland

The requirements for running and holding a political office vary across the state.
Generally speaking, little-to-no experience is needed to seek election. You have to be at least 24 years old and prove residency.
The crazy thing is that some of the county offices requiring the most responsibility to the public have the fewest job requirements.
On the other hand, it isn’t easy to run for Property Valuation Administrator – a state office. The candidate must first pass a test.
You must wait for the test to be administered, take off work to drive to a testing center – perhaps hours away – then wait for your name to appear on a list that is available to the public.
If you can’t pass the test – or if you get a flat tire on the way to the testing center – you can’t run for the office. You will not be given another chance to take the test for another four years – unless an opening occurs due to a vacancy in your county.
The exam, which consists of vocabulary, reading comprehension and mathematical questions, lasts up to three and one-half hours. There are no breaks between sections.
State law (KRS 132.380) says the test is based on skills necessary to perform the requirements of the job, including, but not limited to, general knowledge about real and personal property appraisal; real estate identification and description; personnel management; budgeting; agriculture; statistics; and government administration.
Requirements for jailer (or insert the name of any other county office), on the other hand, are few. The person must be 24, live in the county for one year and the state for two years. You don’t have to prove you can read or write or follow directions. You don’t have to add two-and-two.
Yet the successful candidate will be overseeing a large budget, numerous employees and in the jailer’s case, potentially dangerous inmates. His success has a great impact on the safety and well-being of the community.
Training is available after he is elected – but it’s a little late at that point if he’s not the right person for the job.
His failure can bankrupt the county and endanger its citizens. Four years is a long time for the wrong person to be in charge.
The only way to oust him is for voters to elect someone else; for him to be convicted in court; or for the governor to remove him.
It is ludicrous that the PVA, who oversees the dangerous business of assessing property, must fulfill more qualifications for office than the jailer or any other county official.
The preceding sentence was not intended to poke fun at the PVA. These days, the PVA is as likely to run into a dangerous character as anyone else.  
This is just one of several parts of our state’s government that needs an overhaul. At the very least, require all potential candidates, whether county or state, to pass a basic skills test. It’s a process that nearly all job-seekers in the private sector go through.
If they can’t pass it – they’ll have four years to study and try again. If it’s good enough for the PVA, it’s good enough for the other candidates.