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By DAMON LAWRENCE
The candidates for circuit court clerk are not vowing to clean house.
They are, however, pledging to clean up what they have referred to during the campaign as a lack of professionalism by the current office staff.
“I think there’s some improvements that can be made there,” Kim Nelson said. “Just some of the things I’ve seen myself being there for the last few years and some of the complaints that some of my colleagues have.
“Sometimes, the phone doesn’t get answered like it should,” she added. “I’d like to see people being waited on at the windows with a little bit more promptness.”
Mona Gardner Wright had a similar take.
“Well, I think by not answering phones, I don’t think that’s professional,” Wright said. “I expect when people come to the window, whether they be the public, attorneys, paralegals, whoever, that they’re addressed immediately. That people don’t continue their personal conversations. They stop what they’re doing and they wait on the people at the window.”
Angela Randolph, the current circuit court clerk, is not seeking re-election. Nelson, Wright and Bob Alford are vying to replace her.
Randolph said she disagrees with people who say her staff is not professional.
“Other than that, I really don’t have much else to say,” Randolph said Friday.
General Sessions Court Judge Dennis Humphrey works with Randolph’s staff.
“They’ve got a hard job,” he said. “Things aren’t perfect at times, but they do a good job, I think.”
In campaign ads, Alford has indicated that professional and courteous service is one of his goals for the office.
“I’ve had a few people tell me that they’re not very friendly, so I wouldn’t want any of my employees doing that,” Alford said.
Wright and Nelson said they also believe the clerk’s office has break issues.
“I think that’s a problem now, and that’s some of the things I’ve been hearing, that they tend to take breaks whenever they want to,” Wright said. “I’m not a bully and I’m not a tyrant, but I would have some strict guidelines.”
She added, “We’re here to work. There are some work expectations. Here’s the time we start. Here’s the time we go home. We’re not free to roam about and do what we want to.”
Nelson said she’d implement a break plan similar to the district attorney general’s office, where she works now.
“Fifteen minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon and then a one-hour lunch break,” Nelson said. “That’s the break plan that I intend to implement, and everyone shouldn’t go out at the same time.”
Wright said appearance is another issue she would address.
“I also want people to look more professional,” she said. “They work in a professional environment. I’m not talking three-piece suits or dresses, but no cartoon T-shirts, no flip flops. I don’t want it to look like a day at the beach.”
If elected, Alford said he doesn’t have plans to clean house.
“You can’t really afford to do that because they’re already trained in what’s going on,” he said. “I would like to enhance a few things about how things are run, and put my own spin on it.”
Alford said he would monitor to make sure things are done his way.
“For one, I’ll have like a little session and then tell them what I expect,” Alford said. “Also, I’ll be hanging in each office to listen in and see how they do, observe it more or less.”
If elected, Wright said everyone on the present staff will be given the opportunity to work for her.
“They’re the ones with the knowledge,” Wright said. “You have to give the folks a chance with the new clerk at the helm to say I want to work for her and I want to work harder and I understand what she wants and I understand what she needs from me and what she expects from me, and hopefully they’ll want to stay and work. If not, then we’ll address that at that time, but everyone will be given a chance.”
Nelson said rumors that she plans to fire the whole staff are not true.
“There are some very good people that work in those offices, and I’ve established working relationships with those folks over the years,” she said.
Nelson said her intentions are to have the current staffers submit a résumé and interview to keep their jobs.
She said she will also be seeking applications from people not currently on staff.
“I’m going to open it up to the general public,” Nelson said. “I want to make sure we have the best professional team running those offices to serve the citizens.”
Early voting is under way and ends on Saturday, July 31. Election Day is Aug. 5.
The new clerk will take office on Sept. 1.
“You go in the first day and address some of those things like not answering the phone, too many smoke breaks, record keeping, messy offices where things get lost,” Wright said. “Those are things that don’t cost the county any money. A good manager can go in there and provide the discipline, the parameters in which we’re going to work, and hopefully those people will want to stay there because they know the business.”