Forum spectators see clerk candidates

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spectators at the Chamber of Commerce's political forum Saturday got a look at all the candidates for two important clerk positions. Each race has an experienced, long-time incumbent in the job, and a rival determined to unseat her.

Nancy Freeman wants Daphne Fagan's job as county clerk. In response to moderator Rev. Steve Thomas' question, she said her goal for the office was to improve access. She would change to weekday hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and also open Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Freeman promises not to let any staff member go, and says careful scheduling will let her increase hours without extra cost. She says she is well qualified and well educated.

"Give me a chance," Freeman said. "I would love to be your county clerk."

"I want to continue to work hard for you," countered Fagan. "I love my job. I want to help every citizen with what they need."

Fagan's goal for next year is to help business owners with the transition to the state's new business tax requirements.

Questioned about cutting her department's budget, Fagan said she had already reduced it by $21,000, as well as introducing more services that should bring in more revenue.

Elinor Brandon Foster wants to continue as clerk of the Marshall County courts.

Keith Hollingsworth, running against Foster, says he will "serve the people the way they deserve to be served."

Foster has a law degree. Hollingsworth does not. He reminded the audience that "one of the best" court clerks, Jack Fagan, did not have a law degree, and served for 20 years.

If elected, Hollingsworth says he will add more protection to the courtrooms, though he did not specify how it would be funded.

Foster is already working within a tight budget, which is preventing additional automation in the clerk's office.

"I know the law and how to use it," Foster said. "I work with seven law enforcement agencies and respond on a 24-hour basis. I enjoy it."

Hollingsworth said, "I will make you a proud circuit court clerk. I will serve that office respectfully."

Voters will decide next month whether to endorse experience, or take a chance on change in both of these offices.

That's also true of the races for state senate, where Debbie Matthews of Columbia is challenging Bill Ketron, and state House, with Billy Spivey trying to unseat Eddie Bass. All four of them participated on Saturday, with the incumbents emphasizing their legislative achievements.

Matthews called herself "your commonsense candidate," while Spivey reminded voters of the way he has compromised and gotten things done as county commission chairman.