However, both interim Superior Court Clerk Tammy Howard, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Annetta Danley Stembridge agree on one thing: the need for the clerk’s office to put customer service at the forefront.
Howard and Stembridge are set to face off in the Nov. 5 special election for the post leading the Clerk of Courts office for the Douglas Judicial District.
The winner will serve the remaining three years of the term of Rhonda Payne, who died in office earlier this year. She will also oversee a 42-person office that keeps track of everything from court dockets to court fees, deeds, property liens, adoptions and more.
“It’s just a real busy office,” Howard said.
By law, the chief deputy clerk is elevated to interim clerk when a vacancy occurs until the governor calls an election, which Gov. Nathan Deal did recently to coincide with city council elections Nov. 5.
Payne succeeded predecessor Cindy Chaffin after Chaffin’s 2007 death, and was in the midst of her second full term when she died of cancer in March.
Stembridge, 59, is a Douglas County native who has worked as a paralegal for 30 years. She also is a longtime Douglasville businesswoman.
Howard, 51, is a Gwinnett County native who moved to Douglas County in 1983. She worked for 14 years in a variety of positions in the clerk’s office before Payne promoted her to chief deputy clerk in 2008.
“I just feel like you have to have experience in this job,” Howard said. “Somebody [without experience] is not going to know how to transmit criminal and civil cases … just the general day-to-day operations of the office.”
Customer service is what Howard and chief deputy clerk Tammy Ayers “preach, preach, preach,” Howard said.
Stembridge said she also wanted the clerk’s office to emphasize customer service, which she said was sorely lacking when she used the office’s services earlier this year.
“I want to make sure … the community can access it without feeling degraded,” she said.
Stembridge said she wanted office employees to be compassionate toward the public.
“You can put people at ease,” she said. “[Customers] may have had people who died. “You need to treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Stembridge said she knows the demands of the office make it “a lot of work,” but the clerk and office employees need to be friendly, reliable and efficient.
She said she believed voters generally changed their attitudes about who should fill countywide offices as Douglas became more diverse during the population boom of the last decade.
Those who were friends of administrators should not be considered heirs to the position, she said.
“We need to get away from the ‘good ole boy’ system,” Stembridge said. “The demographics have changed. You have to look at the whole county, not just the immediate family. It should be about character content.”
Early voting for the elections in Douglas County, the city of Douglasville, and the city of Villa Rica (Douglas County portion) will begin Monday, Oct. 14, in the Voter Registration Office on the first floor of the Douglas County Courthouse, according to information on the Douglas County Elections and Voter Registration web site. It will run Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Nov. 1. The Douglas County Courthouse is located at 8700 Hospital Drive in Douglasville.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Depending on where they reside, some city voters will have to cast ballots for the special election in one location and the city council election at a separate location. Early voting is done in one location.
Voters should consult their precinct cards for their locations or visit www.sos.ga.gov/mvp, enter the requested information and determine their polling place locations, the web site stated.
On Election Day, voters in four precincts have a new polling place:
•Beulah Elementary School voters will now vote at Beulah Baptist Church (4031 Bankhead Highway)
•Fairplay Middle School voters will now vote at the Day Star Tabernacle Gymnasium (8199 Ga. Hwy. 166)
•Bill Arp Elementary School voters will now vote at Prays Mill Baptist Church Gymnasium (4979 Ga. Hwy. 5)
•Annette Winn Elementary School voters will now vote at Lithia Springs First Baptist Church (3566 Veterans Memorial Highway).