Justin Birtwhistle will be Tuolumne County’s next treasurer-tax collector after winning the first competitive race for the position in 24 years.

Preliminary results from Tuesday’s primary election showed Birtwhistle cruising to victory with 5,961 votes, representing about 65 percent. Michelle Ronning received 3,218 votes, or about 35 percent.

“I’m honored to have won the election,” Birtwhistle said. “I took the day off of work and first order was to get the yard signs down.”

Birtwhistle, who works as a certified public accountant, was endorsed by both the current and former elected treasurer-tax collectors.

He plans to train with current Treasurer-Tax Collector Shelley Piech, who is retiring at the end of the year, between now and when he assumes office on Jan. 7.

Customer service will be at the top of Birtwhistle’s priority list when he becomes treasurer-tax collector.

“I know I have great customer service there already, so just keep it up and as things change with technology or other unforeseen opportunities come along, get those in place and make it easier for people to do business and communicate,” he said.

Since the election, Birtwhistle said he’s communicated via email with Ronning, who has worked as the revenue recovery manager in the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office since 2013, and is looking forward to working with her.

“She’s excited for me, and I’m really excited about working with her too,” he said. “I think it’s going to work out great.”

Birtwhistle far outspent Ronning during the campaign. He spent a total of about $10,700, including $9,600 of his own money, while she spent about $2,750, of which $2,270 was her own money.

Ronning said she planned to stay in her job as the office’s revenue recovery manager, who serves as second in command, and looks forward to working with Birtwhistle as well.

“I enjoyed the experience and meeting everyone in the community,” she said of the election. “I think I’ve grown from this experience.”

The last competitive race for the treasurer-tax collector’s position was in 1994, when Del Hodges won. He was re-elected four times after that, running unopposed in each election.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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