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2 compete for GOP nomination in Butler County controller fight

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:57 p.m.
Ben Holland, Republican candidate for Butler County Controller. Holland, 26, is a resident of Connoquenessing Township.
Karen Diel, 57, of Franklin, a candidate for Butler County Controller

The two Republicans competing in the May 21 primary for Butler County controller each describe themselves as fiscal conservatives who will be vigilant about overseeing the county's finances.

No Democrat is running for the office, which Republican Jack McMillin of Butler has held for 20 years. He decided not to seek re-election and has not endorsed a primary election candidate. The winner of the Republican nomination would run unopposed in November, barring a write-in campaign by an opponent.

The controller keeps watch on county spending that is expected to be $186 million this year.

Candidate Karen L. Diehl, 57, of Franklin, is a certified public accountant and the owner of Diehl Accounting and Financial Services, PC, in Franklin.

“I think I would bring years of experience. I am a fiscal conservative. You don't spend money you don't have. That's how government should work, even though it often does not work that way,” said Diehl, who is married, has a grown daughter and is a lifelong resident of the county.

Her opponent, Ben Holland, 26, of Connoquenessing is the accounting manager for the Pittsburgh office of the McKesson Corp., a health care services company based in San Francisco.

“I'm running for two reasons. I have a strong accounting background and will be an independent fiscal watchdog for the county,” Holland said.

The controller earns $83,800 a year, oversees an office of seven full-time employees and one part-time employee.

Diehl, who studied accounting at Slippery Rock University, said mismanagement of the construction the Butler County Prison sparked her interested in public service.

Butler County officials in 2009 opened the 564-bed prison, anticipating an increase in the number of inmates as the county's population grew. But the daily average of 350 inmates, which includes about 50 state and federal prisoners, leaves plenty of extra space.

Holland has a background in public service.

In 2007, while in his third year at Grove City College, he was elected to the Butler Area School Board. He served one four-year term and said he did not vote to raise taxes, even though the board twice did so during his term.

Holland is a 2005 graduate of Butler Area Senior High School.

If elected, Holland said he would explore the use of technology to make the office more efficient and would work to keep the office nonpolitical.

“I'm a Republican. But the controller's job is nonpolitical in that you have to hold everyone accountable,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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