(Editor’s note: This is part of a series of election-related stories that will run prior to early voting beginning Tuesday.)

Two Portland residents are vying for the county auditor position.

Republicans Emily Franks and Kristi Morningstar will face off in the May primary for their party’s nomination for Jay County Auditor.

Franks, who has worked in the auditor’s office for about eight years, was selected early this month to fill out former auditor Anna Culy’s term through the end of the year. Culy resigned March 4 to pursue a career at Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. Franks, a 2009 Jay County High School graduate, was the only applicant for the position.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and experience design from the University of Indianapolis. While in college, she worked part-time in the university’s accounting office.

A 2006 graduate of Jay County High School, Morningstar moved to Richmond to pursue nursing school and graduated with an associate’s degree in nursing from ITT Technical Institute. She returned to Portland to live with her fiancé, Ryan Sheffer.

Morningstar started working for Bowen Center — it’s a mobile treatment center for mental and physical health conditions — in 2019. She worked with patients ranging from 4 years old to 70 years old.

“I’ve definitely experienced different ways to assist people,” she said.

Franks started as a part-time employee in the auditor’s office in 2008 and continued working part-time for the county — she worked in the auditor’s office, Jay County Sheriff’s Office and Jay County Purdue Extension Office — through her summer breaks. Since April 2014, she’s been working full-time as general ledger and bookkeeper for the auditor’s office.

“It just kind of seemed like a natural progression,” said Franks of running for county auditor. “I’ve just continued to learn more and more in the office … this kind of just seemed like the natural next step.”

When the coronavirus pandemic started in March 2020, Morningstar decided to stay at home with her daughter. She said she’s always wanted to join local politics, and she enjoys working with numbers. She said she’s a detailed-oriented person who often used calculations to figure out medication dosage amounts for patients while in nursing school. She also helps her fiancé with finances for his business, Sheffer Property Maintenance.

Franks noted her job has included handling part of the local budget and property tax deductions, along with claims, payroll and other county finances.

“I just feel like, whether people realize it or not, we’re probably handling some sort of their business,” she said.

Although she hasn’t worked in the auditor’s office before, Morningstar is optimistic about picking up the role.

“It’s going to be definitely a learning process for me, but I’m willing to dive in and learn,” she said.

Morningstar said she’s “dependable, reliable (and) a team player,” and she’s hopeful that she will be elected.

“I love our community,” said Morningstar. “I think that being able to serve in our community would be awesome and … ensure that local spending continues to go smoothly as it has (been) in the office.”

Franks advocates for herself as the candidate with the most background in her field.

“I think I have the experience, (and) I think I have the knowledge. I care. I think the big part (is) that I do care,” Franks said. “To have someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing could just be so disastrous … the learning curve is a steep one.”