Circuit Court Clerk
This is an office packed with duties.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court maintains clerical functions for Circuit and Sessions civil courts, and is responsible for management of all complaints, petitions, summons, orders and other documents.
The Clerk handles the collection, receipt, and accounting for litigation taxes, court costs, fines, fees, and restitution ordered by the court, as well as the collection, receipt, and civil warrants, detainer warrants, executions, garnishments and subpoenas. The Clerk collects and disburses child support payments, files orders of protection, judicial hospital cases and emergency committals.
As if that were not enough, the Circuit Court Clerk also maintains current data on all prospective jurors and handles the empanelling of jurors for Circuit, Criminal and Chancery Courts.
In the coming year, the office will be handled by a novice. Twelve-year clerk Paula Thompson announced her retirement in July, shortly after Hamilton County commissioners denied her requested $336,000 budget increase for the fiscal year that started July 1, which she said she needed to make ends meet. Instead, commissioners told her to cut payroll and criticized her publicly for steadily increasing salaries in the office since she was elected in 2002. The office's expenses outpaced revenues by 2007.
Now one of those commissioners seeks her $103,795 seat, as does an attorney with a tax lien filed on her home and a captain in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department who was demoted from the rank of deputy chief after making offensive or harassing comments to more than 20 of his subordinates at the jail. All candidates are Republican with no Democratic opposition in August.
Henry ran a successful business, Stacey Oil Company, for 39 years before selling it. He also has served 12 years on the county commission -- five of those years as chairman. He said he believes the current budget for the office is adequate and that he can be an effective leader in the office and make it accountable.
Criminal Court Clerk
Gwen Tidwell is an easy pick for re-election to her post of 20 years as Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk.
Tidwell also is a licensed attorney who has practiced in the courts she now serves as clerk, and her ability to find and apply domestic violence grants allow criminal and circuit courts to share information and better protect abuse victims.
"We [also] are trying to connect the information with Circuit Court, Criminal Court and Juvenile Court," she said. "Now we actually have people sitting in the courtrooms telling the judges what's going on [in other courts].
Tidwell, a self-proclaimed "fiscally conservative Democrat," wants to make the clerk's office "paperless. And she is trying to increase revenues by hiring collection agencies to seek outstanding fees.
Tidwell's Republican opposition, Brian White of East Ridge, did not return calls for an interview. In the August General Election, Tidwell will face State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who is leaving his District 30 seat.
We strongly endorse Tidwell.
Register of Deeds
Pam Hurst, a five-term incumbent for the Hamilton County register of deeds post, is the clear choice for the Republican nomination on May 6 over 25-year-old corrections officer Ryan Epperson.
There is no Democratic candidate for the office, so the winner of the primary takes the $103,795-a-year position.
The principal duty of the County Register's office is to record deeds and other legal documents such as powers of attorney, land plats, military discharges, mortgages, marriage settlements and titles.
Hurst said technology was one of the first things she addressed when she was elected in 1994, and her office in 2005 became the first register's office in the state to electronically record land record documents such as deeds and mortgages. With 15 employees and a $1.1 million budget, the office also is digitizing old files.
Hurst said one of her main goals for a sixth term would be to keep the office "user-friendly." The Register of Deeds office has extended hours and is open from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays.
We endorse Hurst.