Four candidates seeking county chancery clerk spot

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Four candidates are seeking the position of Warren County chancery clerk. They are Democrat Walter Osborne Jr., 52, Republican Donna Farris Hardy, 57, and independents Alecia Ashley, 36, and Gene Thompson, 70.

1. What distinguishes you from the other candidates seeking the position of chancery clerk?

Ashley: My qualifications distinguish me from the other candidates as I have worked for local attorneys in the Vicksburg, Warren County area for 10 years and the majority of the legal work which I prepare and handle is filed in the office of the chancery clerk, and I have the knowledge and experience of the office and the records located therein. I am also closely associated with the chancery court and its operation as I file legal court documents, set matters for hearing and follow up on all cases decided by the chancery court as it pertains to my employment.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

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.

Osborne: I am the best qualified for chancery clerk. I served in the office for 15 years and for the past 11 years as Vicksburg city clerk. Although the positions are not the same, there are similar responsibilities and duties. Both require familiarity with state laws, handling dockets and maintaining public records for city and county boards. While working in the chancery clerk’s office, I worked in all facets of county government, including but not limited to payroll, claims docket, annual budgets, computer administrator, land rolls and homestead rolls as well as election administrator. In both positions, I have been fair and impartial and I will continue to be so.

Thompson: Maturity and business experience are my distinguishing factors. I have over 20 years of managing my own businesses. I am a take-charge person who will motivate others to excel to be the best at what they do. I will bring fresh ideas and positive solutions to the office of the chancery clerk. No special-interest groups or big business support me, and I have funded my own campaign.

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?

Ashley: Yes. The office requires a great deal of time and work, and the pay should be commensurate with time required to perform adequately. I believe the people of this county want and deserve a reliable and trustworthy clerk willing to dedicate time and energy to the office. Not only is the position demanding, it takes the minutes of the Board of Supervisors and works closely with supervisors in the county’s everyday operations. The salary should be equal to the level of responsibility and time invested if done right. It is my intention my office would withstand any state audit.

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’s 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.”

Osborne: As you will recall, the State of Mississippi imposed this system in 1995. The system was established to help equalize payments received from wealthier counties to those of poorer counties. Before there were no caps and the clerks made two times to three times more than the $100,000. Given the extensive duties of the elective office and the fact that the chancery clerk’s office is the hub of county government and the clerk works closely with all other county departments, I believe this is a more equitable system.

Thompson: Yes. This is an important office as it maintains records of all deeds, titles, legal notices, etc. The clerk keeps the minutes of supervisors’ meetings and maintains the business of chancery court. It also makes and services payroll for the required county offices.

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

Ashley: When I am elected as chancery clerk my top priority will be to bring new life to the chancery clerk’s office and to continue to make sure the office is run efficiently and to further help the citizens and voters of Warren County when a need arises for them to visit the office. I plan to continue to promote electronic court filing and to streamline the clerk’s duties so that the office is operated proficiently, effectively and honestly in every way.

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.

Osborne: There are a number of areas I am interested in reviewing for possible enhancement or changes. However, records management and availability of viewing public records online are two of my immediate priorities. In order to accomplish the latter, measures must be put in place to redact Social Security numbers and other personal information. Others include instituting a credit card method of payment system for delinquent tax payments and re-binding older land roll books located in the record room.

Thompson: When elected, my top priorities will be to streamline the efficiency of the office of chancery clerk. I will give the citizens of Warren County superior service. Twenty years of private business and ownership experience will equip me to effectively manage the office of the chancery clerk.