Both Democrats and Republicans have a choice of candidates in the primary election for Surry County Clerk of Court on Tuesday. Incumbent Teresa O’Dell and challenger Neil Brendle are facing off in the Republican primary. John Snow and Kim Goings Thomas are the candidates in the Democratic primary.
Here, we bring you a question an answer session with the two competing for the Republican nomination for the seat.
Have you held or run for elected office before? If so, for what office and when?
While this is my first campaign for public office, I was appointed and reappointed several times to the office of magistrate beginning December of 2000 and served until that position was eliminated last year.
What specific skills and experience will you bring to the Clerk’s office?
As a judicial official for almost 17 years, I learned many skills from the training and experience I obtained in office. I heard more civil cases than any other magistrate during my last few terms. I also have managerial skills gained in the private sector, such as project management and human resource management experience from previous duties in the construction industry. This combination of education, training and diverse skill set will prove to be a valuable resource in the Clerk of Court’s office.
Why are you seeking the office of Clerk of Court? What will you bring to the office that none of the other candidates bring?
My passion to serve others fuels my quest to seek office as the Clerk of Superior Court. Public service consumed my teenage and adult life. This led me to follow in the footsteps of my parents. My father was a magistrate and a state law enforcement officer; and my mother was a contract agent selling license plates for the NCDMV. My mother also was elected as a commissioner for the Town of Dobson for approximately two decades.
During my teen years I began coaching and officiating youth sports and continued well into adulthood. I truly love serving and helping others in their time of need. This desire coupled with my experience and knowledge of the State of North Carolina Judicial System will catapult me ahead of the other individuals seeking this office.
What changes will you bring to the Clerk’s office to better serve the public?
Our state’s court systems have great technological resources which are not being implemented correctly. I will stress the importance to better utilize these resources to improve efficiency and accuracy.
Secondly, the relationships between agencies and officials need to be cultivated better to promote cohesion, cooperation, and coordination to provide a more efficient environment. I intend to build on existing knowledge by researching many of the other protocols and procedures from the other 99 counties’ offices in order to streamline the services provided.
Third, and possibly most important, is workforce training and cross-training. The most valuable resource is the workforce, and I intend to empower them by helping them take advantage of the training and education available to all employees. My goal is to arm the staff with the most up to date knowledge and training available, and to establish contingencies for absences and increased workloads.
Additionally, an immediate goal is to improve workplace morale and create an environment conducive to success. Flexible scheduling for the staff may assist in this goal while providing better coverage for the public. Finally, I intend to establish a website for the office that provides forms, knowledge and access to the public which will reduce wait times and improve efficiency greatly.
What role does the Clerk’s office play in law enforcement and the courts, and what are the consequences if the Clerk fails in that role?
The Clerk of Superior Court’s office has many duties in their relationships with law enforcement. Some examples include: the office issues and retains citation books the officers use, provides for case calendars, acts as custodian for evidence in trials, and maintains the files and documents of the court. Clerks provide a secure environment for these records and can issue criminal processes if need be. If the Clerk of Superior Court’s office fails to maintain these records properly, fails to securely store evidence or files, or falters in their role with law enforcement in any way, the criminal case may be in jeopardy and it may endanger the officer with civil liabilities.
What, if any, systems will you put in place to ensure that the Clerk’s office is adequately serving the needs of the public, the court system and law enforcement? How will you handle complaints and issues as to quality of service that arise?
In addition to a comprehensive employee handbook, I will establish specific protocols that everyone will adhere to in order to provide uniform service to the public and law enforcement. Every current policy will be reviewed and subject to elimination or revision if they do not foster an environment that serves efficiently and accurately.
Each complaint will be carefully considered to determine its merit, whether or not it is true at all, and evaluated to discover the measure of discontent with service. It may be difficult at times to hear, but each complaint will be investigated and a response will be delivered promptly after review of all variables. We will research each individual occurrence and determine the most appropriate resolution. Careful analysis will prevent future recurrences and hopefully provide the public with a satisfying answer and solution. This will provide them with the reassurance that the office is there to serve everyone fairly, accurately, and impartially. Each complaint will be treated as a learning experience with the focus on permanent improvement in the office.
What role do party politics play in the Clerk’s office? Is party loyalty from your staff important to you? If you are elected clerk, how will you handle matters of party loyalty?
I desire to create an environment in which the employees feel free to inform themselves and vote as their heart, mind, and values guide them. Rather than focus on political influences in the workplace, I will strive to stress ethical and competent service. As a leader, I would intend to leverage my abilities for the least of those I encounter, and be a servant to all as well. I strongly oppose using an official position to coerce or influence employees for purposes involving politics. The official who protects, builds up, and serves alongside their staff will be a leader they will freely choose to support without being compelled. My career was always guided by the Code of Judicial Conduct, and while the Clerk is not required by law to follow it, the Code provides a strong guide to ethics for the office. I will continue to use my faith and the Code of Judicial Conduct as guides for leadership if elected.
Have you held or run for elected office before? If so, for what and when?
I had run three times prior to being elected in 2014 as Surry County’s Clerk of Court.
What specific skills and experience have you brought to the Clerk’s office?
I bring to the Clerk’s Office three years of experience as the Clerk of Court and fifteen years as a Deputy Clerk. Certifications from the Institution of Government regarding Guardianships, incompetency hearings, estates, civil procedure, and criminal law. Having been a probation officer and working for a Sheriff’s office from 2000-13, I know the importance of policy and procedure for the criminal and civil courts.
Why are you seeking re-election to the office of Clerk of Court? What have you brought to the office that none of the other candidates will bring?
I love serving my constituents. God called me to the task of serving his people with compassion not politics. There’s still lots of work to be done, and I would like to serve a second term.
What changes will you bring to the Clerk’s office in a second term to better serve the public?
We will be adding a third estate clerk. I would like to create an online service for our upset-bid process. The Clerk will be reapplying for the Domestic Violence Grant to serve victims. We will continue our exceptional customer service.
What role does the Clerk’s office play in law enforcement and the courts and what are the consequences if the Clerk fails in that role?
The Clerk of Court office is the recordkeeper for all court proceedings. The Clerk’s Office prepares all court dockets, issues subpoenas and orders for arrest in the criminal court division for all law enforcement agencies. Effective communication between law enforcement, the judges, the district attorney’s office, witnesses and attorneys are essential to achieve a productive court session. Errors have consequences. All complaints are filed with the clerk and reviewed with the employee. The Clerk will correct the error and speak personally to the party involved.
What, if any, systems have you put in place to ensure that the Clerk’s office is adequately serving the needs of the public, the court system and law enforcement? How do you handle complaints and issues as to quality of service that arise? Will you change these processes in a second term?
To better serve our constituents, we have cross-trained our employees and reassigned workloads. We have staff meetings to discuss how to improve our customer service. We ask for feedback. “How was your customer service today?” We immediately address all issues and communicate the requirements of the law. We have implemented new policies in child support, court hearings and commitments.
What role do party politics play in the Clerk’s office? Is party loyalty from your staff important to you? How do you handle matters of party loyalty?
Party politics is not a component of my leadership. I work just as hard as my employees at the counter and answering the phone. I lead by example. Democrats and Republicans elected me in 2014. What’s important to me is loyalty to one’s boss and loyalty to the mission of serving my constituents. It has been a hard transition for some employees who were there prior to my election as Clerk. A heartfelt “thank you” to those employees for taking the time to get to know me as a person. We have done amazing things in the upgrade of the Clerk’s office, and I am proud of those accomplishments.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699