Three seek Republican nomination for chancery clerk’s spot

Published 11:39 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for Warren County chancery clerk to fill the position being vacated by the retiring Dot McGee. The Republican nominee will face Democrat Walter Osborne Jr. and independents Alecia Ashley and Gene Thompson in the general election on Nov. 8.

The Republican candidates are:

• Dawn Cain Barnes, 45, a dental hygienist.

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• Donna Farris Hardy, 57, a retired health care administrator.

• Doug Whittington, 37, city accountant.

Barnes did not return the questionnaire.

1. Six candidates are vying to be the next chancery clerk. What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Hardy: I have a proven record of accomplishments that demonstrate my leadership skills and management ability of taking care of business. Over 26 years, I have successfully developed and managed new programs, operational systems and facilities from four administrative positions. I’ve written policy and procedure manuals, created tracking systems for records management, implemented a merit-based evaluation system and led the leadership development program. I was project director over the construction of three facilities and also an apartment complex for the disabled after securing $2.17 million in grant funds. My record proves I take care of business regardless of the task.

Whittington: What distinguishes me from the other candidates are my qualifications. The chancery clerk is by statute the county auditor and treasurer. I am a certified public accountant with five years of governmental auditing experience. I have a bachelor of science in commerce and business administration. I am also currently the accounting director for the City of Vicksburg, where I am responsible for many of the same duties as the chancery clerk. The chancery clerk’s office deserves someone with the appropriate education, strong ethics and sufficient work experience to carry out those duties.

2. Clerks of the chancery 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?

Hardy: Yes, if checks and balances are in place to reduce the opportunity for abuse. The clerk’s operating account is built from the collection of fees but until she accumulates enough money to run her office, she must personally borrow the necessary funds to meet her obligations. This is easier to do when one can demonstrate a sufficient earning potential to her lender. However, I do not advocate the clerk allowing her salary to go that high if her employees are underpaid or the public is not receiving the benefit of new services and technology because “we don’t have the money.”

Whittington: I think that depends on what you expect. The chancery clerk’s office, with its various duties, is the hub of all county government. If you expect someone to simply manage the staff, then, as a taxpayer, I feel the position may be overpaid. I intend not only to perform the duties of the office, but to search for efficiencies and improvements in order to better serve the citizens.

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

Hardy: I would like to look at creating any new services or tweaking existing services that would lead the office to become more efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly for both customer and staff. Through talking with the public, the most mentioned requests are to make public records available online and to set the office up to accept credit cards and other electronic payments. These are reasonable requests and both should be achievable.

Whittington: If elected chancery clerk, my top priority will be to familiarize and educate myself with all processes of the office, particularly the land redemption procedures. Land redemptions are a very important duty of the clerk’s office. Also of high importance will be to make public records available online while protecting against disclosure of private information. I believe this convenience would be greatly appreciated by the citizens and professionals who utilize this office on a regular basis.