(Scroll down to see video of both candidates as they spoke during a Hawkins County GOP candidate forum March 25 in Surgoinsville. They were limited to three minutes each, which is why moderator Scott Trent cuts them both off.)
ROGERSVILLE — Incumbent Hawkins County Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis is being challenged in the May 6 Republican primary election by school board chairman Randy Collier.
They are the only two candidates seeking that office. The primary winner will win the Aug. 7 county general election uncontested.
Among the duties of the clerk of courts is to maintain records and collect fines for the Sessions Judge, Circuit Court Criminal Court Judge, Juvenile Judge, three Circuit Court Civil Judges, and one child support referee.
The candidates are profiled in alphabetical order.
He said this year he and many other citizens of Hawkins County felt that the course the Circuit Court Clerk's office has taken warranted him to "step up."
"Some of the issues are quite concerning, which include state reporting procedures, poor customer service and poor communication within the other sections of our justice system," Collier said. "I know I am qualified to turn these issues around and bring back respectability, accountability and service."
Collier added, "I hold numerous certifications in instruction, supervision, leadership and crisis management. Because of my versatile experience, this prepares me for the office. As school board chairman, I am experienced in engaging a team approach for problem solving and balancing a $64 million dollar budget. My experience as an investigator and officer enables me to be knowledgeable about judicial processes as mandated by TN code. All of my experiences make me qualified to supervise a sizable staff, to engage a team approach to handle stress and be highly methodical. My proven track record as an effective communicator insures that everyone CAN work together for common good."
Collier said his first goal if elected would be to assess all staff to ensure they are properly trained in all aspects of their specific duties, with a focus on providing good customer service with effective communication and to ensure they are adequately cross trained.
He said he would also immediately seek input of all the courts to promote communication and efficient judicial processes.
"My long range goal would be to seek all funding opportunities to replace the existing outdated electronic system to one that is interconnected with all agencies we work with, including networking with other counties," Collier said. "This will allow the Circuit Court Clerk's Office to reduce the work load of the Deputy Clerks, which will in turn improve other processes in the office. The agencies that are interconnected will also benefit more effective and efficient processes.
Collier added, "You will not find anything in my many years of service that would bring shame, conflict, or ridicule. I commit to work hard for you, I commit that my staff would work hard for you and do it all with the promise it will be done respectfully. I ask for your vote because its about service, not politics.
With more than a decade of experience in the clerk's office, Davis worked in every position in the office. Upon being elected she made sure all deputy clerks were crossed trained to be interchangeable into every position.
She has an accounting background which she said is valuable to ensure all agencies are paid correctly and all funds are properly held according to statute.
"Prior to my taking office, more than $150,000 dollars was being held in a miscellaneous deposit account," Davis said. "These were improperly flagged monies that should have been paid out to various agencies as well as victims in some cases. With the help of my bookkeeper and a lot of time and research, we have drastically reduced this account in the past year."
Prior to being elected Davis' duties in the court clerks office was the collection of delinquent fines and costs.
"I am proud to say that during my years as the Cost Collection Clerk and since being elected, we have kept in our county over $960,019," she said. "When the state passed legislation to take some of the monies away from our county, I teamed up with the Hamblen County Clerk and lobbied for the legislature to change the law to allow counties with a cost collection department to keep 50 percent of all delinquent fines we collect. The Tennessee Clerks Association expects this bill to become law on July 1."
Davis noted that when she asked the county commission for an extra position to collect funds owed Hawkins County by the state, she promised that the position would more than pay for itself. A year later that position has now billed the state for more than $204,172, and Hawkins County has been paid $147,172.00 with an additional $55,000 outstanding.
Among her goals for her next term include replacing the 12-year old software now in use and purchasing new software set up by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
"This will result in much improved efficiency in the courtroom as well as the office, yet, I will not seek additional funding for this purchase," Davis said.
Davis added, "I feel I am by far the most qualified candidate for this office. There is no manual on how to be a Clerk of Courts. One must jump in and take control of the many demands of this fast-paced office. Before I took office, I used vacation days to visit nearby counties to work with other Clerks to better understand our Judges and how each likes his or her Court run. I have enjoyed working with the six Judges and the Child Support referee and learning what makes each of their courtrooms work for their various needs."