Election 2011 Two bid for Democratic nomination for circuit clerk

Published 11:43 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two people are in the contest for the Democratic nomination for Warren County circuit clerk. The nominee will advance to face the Republican nominee — Bill Jeffers or David Sharp — and independents Jan Hyland Daigre and Robert Terry in the general election on Nov. 8.

Neither of the Republican candidates returned a questionnaire.

Democrats seeking the seat are:

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• Incumbent Shelly Ashley-Palmertree, 41, who has held the office for eight years.

• Preston Balthrop, 55, an auto sales manager.

1. Six candidates are vying for the job of circuit clerk. What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Ashley-Palmertree: I feel that my 24 years of “on-the-job” experience is truly what separates me from the other candidates.

Balthrop: All candidates in this race possess redeeming qualities. Honesty, integrity and credibility are but a few. What I will bring to the office is all of those qualities combined with a work ethic that cannot be surpassed by anyone in this race. My pledge to the taxpayers is simple: “I will be at work each day to conduct the business required of this office in a respectful and professional manner.” From over 30 years in the private sector, I know a businesslike approach will result in better efficiency and improved services for the taxpayers. The business of the circuit clerk demands that.

2. Clerks of the circuit court system in Mississippi are paid $90,000 a year, and service-based fees can push annual salaries past $100,000. Is this arrangement for a county-level office justified?

Ashley-Palmertree: The duties of a circuit clerk are quite numerous and require specialized knowledge. Among those duties are keeping records for circuit court (criminal and civil), county court (criminal and civil) and youth court. Issuing juries summons for all courts, maintaining minutes of all those courts, there’s lots more… so the job is always very exciting and keeps me busy.

Balthrop: Perhaps this question should only be asked of someone who has served as circuit clerk because he or she has firsthand knowledge of what is required. I plan to review prior budgets and implement changes as necessary with an eye toward cutting some expenses. It is my desire to lower costs to the public where possible and do so without reducing the quality of services rendered. Government offices should be run like businesses to ensure taxpayers have confidence in knowing public servants have earned every penny of their salaries. $90,000 is the salary. ..If elected I will endeavor to earn it.

3. What tops your list of priorities for the office if elected?

Ashley-Palmertree: The same priorities I’ve had since being elected in 2003: To always put the needs of Warren County citizens first and to give them my very best every day.

Balthrop: I plan to run the office of the circuit clerk as if it were a business. A more efficient and more effective businesslike approach will better meet the demands of this office. With this approach, I know all services can and will be rendered to the citizens of Warren County and to the circuit court with great respect and better efficiency. That is what the taxpayers expect. If I am elected circuit clerk, that is what I will deliver.