While incumbent Charles Baker asserts that over 40 years of experience in the Hall County Clerk of Courts office qualifies him for another term, his challengers Jennifer Gibbs, Brad Rounds and Laura Stiner, insist that change is critical for the future of the Hall County judicial system.
Baker’s opponents are focusing on issues such as poor leadership, employee turnover and the need to modernize operations of the Clerk of Courts office.
Another consistent talking point for each of Baker’s challengers has been the need to return the process for obtaining passports to the Clerk of Courts office.
“That is a service that we’re providing to the county to the county citizens and that is extra money that the Clerk’s office brings in,” said Rounds on WDUN’s Morning Talk with Martha Zoller. “That money could be used to help generate the equipment, technology or whatever that office needs.”
Rounds has also addressed the need for structure within the Clerk of Courts office, claiming that problems within the office are a result of poor leadership.
“You have got to have structure in that office,” said Rounds. “Right now, that office is several months behind and it’s because of poor management, poor leadership, but the main thing is structure to make it to where that office is working as a team.”
Rounds has experience in leadership as a former Captain in the Patrol Division of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. He retired last year after 32 years with the office in order to run for the Clerk of Court’s position.
Modernization is at the forefront of Gibbs’s campaign. Gibbs has been a Certified Public Accountant since 2001 and worked in the corporate world. Gibbs said she took an interest in running for the Clerk of Courts office several years ago and gathered information about the office from people she knew that worked there.
“I heard a lot of talk about employee morale being low, a lack of leadership, inefficient processes and procedures and that it was way past due for modernization…my skill sets and training play right into that,” said Gibbs on Morning Talk.
Gibbs is a Hall County native who graduated from the University of North Georgia and is married to former Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs.
Gibbs’s website says she is trained in and has experience with leadership and human resources, budgeting and document management. But it is her experience with technology that she said she will use first if she wins the Clerk of Courts seat.
“I believe the Clerk of Courts office has a big computer system that needs to be implemented this year,” said Gibbs. “That’s very important to get the technology in place, that will improve efficiencies all the way around once you get that implemented.”
Stiner is also a former employee of the Clerk’s office who noticed the need for changes during her employment. Some issues she has addressed are a need for training manuals and procedures as well as a lack of communication among employees.
As a Hall County native and former residential home builder in the North Georgia area, Stiner’s campaign is very people focused.
“People don’t have confidence in their job if they don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to do,” said Stiner on Morning Talk. “A lot of times people would come, they would get hired, they would get trained and the training was two people doing one job because of the written manual problem.”
Stiner said that these issues contributed to the office’s low employee retention rate, but a larger issue within the office was lower pay compared to other offices within the court system.
If elected, Stiner said she plans to take this issue to the Board of Commissioners.
“I’m going to request that they reallocate funds so that employees of the Clerk’s office have the same starting pay as all the other starting clerks in the courthouse,” said Stiner.
Stiner said some other changes she would make include opening an express window in the Clerk’s office for customers and cross-training employees for a more efficient workplace.
Despite the criticism of his opponents, Baker is adamant that he is ready for another four years.
“I know how to run this office,” said Baker during his interview on Morning Talk. “Until you’re in these shoes, you really don’t know how it is.”
Baker addressed several criticisms that his challengers have brought forward. He defended his decision to move passports to the library system, stating that he did so to catch up on statutory duties, but assured that the office is up to date on everything.
In addition, he said he has proper documentation to prove why co-workers left or had issues during their time with the office.
Baker also explained why he decided to run for another term, while a couple of his opponents were under the impression he was going to retire.
“I feel like I have much more I can offer over the next four years,” said Baker. “Whenever I was thinking about retiring it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t ready to retire.”
Baker has served as Clerk of Courts for the past 11 years, serving as Chief Deputy Clerk for seven years prior to that. In addition, he has worked in various divisions of the Clerk of Courts office, including operations of the criminal court, civil court, real estate and personal property, jury management and traffic bureau.
More information on each of the candidates and links to their interviews is on the AccessWDUN Voter’s Guide. If necessary, a runoff will take place on August 11th. The winner faces no opposition in the November election.