The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer 

Clerk Of Court Candidates Go Head To Head - Brevard NC

 


Last Tuesday night, Rita Ashe and Donna Robinson – the two candidates for the county’s Clerk of Superior Court – discussed their past experience as well as their vision for the future of the clerk of court during a candidate forum held at the library’s Rogow Room.

In her opening remarks, Ashe, who has 26 years of experience in the clerk’s office including 10 years as clerk of court, said she was running for re-election because the position “is my job” and “is what I am trained to do.”

Ashe, a Republican, was hired in 1988 and took over the clerk’s position at the recommendation of Doreen Mahoney, the previous clerk of court who retired in 2004. Ashe, a county native, said she loves the citizens of the county, calling them “my people” and said they should continue receiving the service they deserve as well as fair and respectful treatment.

Robinson, a Democrat who has 22 years experience working as a magistrate judge in the county, said her vision is to have the clerk of court’s office be “the most accessible, informative and responsive office in the state,” adding that it would be an honor to serve the public.

If elected, Robinson pledged to lead by example and be involved in the community as well as foster a friendly and approachable office environment.

Robinson said she would also work with judges and district attorneys to create a better flow of court cases.

The following contains each question presented to candidates as well as a synopsis of each candidate’s response.

Responses will be provided in the order in which they were given.

What knowledge or skills do you possess that enable you to effectively manage all the duties of the office of clerk of court?

Ashe said she has worked in the clerk’s office for 26 years, dealt with estates for 12 years and worked in the criminal and civil division.

Ashe said there is “very little” she has not encountered during his career. Ashe also touted her communication skills, saying over the years she has learned how to handle people and make them feel comfortable in the office.

Ashe said she has also conducted special proceedings, such as incompetency hearings, for the past 12 years, and helped with adoption proceedings.

“Anything the clerk of court can do, I have done over the past 26 years,” Ashe said.

Robinson said her two main qualifications are her education and her ability to put her past experience to work. Robinson holds two degrees – one in accounting and one in business administration – and has 22 years experience working as a magistrate judge.

Robinson said utilizing that combination of education and experience would be a “key tool” in her ability to better serve the county.

What is the biggest challenge the Clerk of Superior Court is facing and how would you overcome it?

Robinson said in a small county, the clerk of court must be a working clerk who is actively involved in all aspects of the office and that is a challenge she would accept.

Ashe said the past six years have been increasingly difficult due to state’s budgetary restrictions.

Ashe said none of her employees have received raises in years and that leads to “people not being as happy” and said her staff deserves a raise. Ashe said she has also learned to do more work with less staffing, as the clerk’s office handles more business on a wide array of matters.

As many state agencies continue to see budget cuts, it can become challenging for those agencies to continue offering a complete set of services to their communities. How would you deal with this issue?

Ashe said there are not many services the clerk can stop providing, as they are required by state statute. One service the office did cut was processing passports, which Ashe said was done three or four years ago.

Ashe said she made that decision in part because the passport agency made it more difficult in terms of the hours of training required of staff to administer passport proceedings. Ashe said the volume of requests also became so great that staff could no longer handle the demand and she made the decision to stop offering the service “with great regret.”

Interestingly, Ashe said there were more people from neighboring counties coming in to get passports than Transylvania County citizens. Other than passports, Ashe said she could not think of any other service the clerk’s office stopped providing.

Robinson placed an emphasis on customer service, saying she would treat all people with dignity and respect. Robinson said, if elected, she plans to restore the procedure of passport applications and will arrange notary training for the staff.

Robinson said she intends to be diligent in cross-training staff, adding, “It is not acceptable for one division in the court to suffer because someone is unavailable.”

Robinson said she would also make herself available for simple divorces and other court matters pursuant to general statutes, which would allow judges to streamline the judicial process.

What is your vision for the Clerk of Superior Court over the next four years?

Robinson reiterated her promise to provide the most accessible, informative and responsive clerk’s office in the state and said it would be an honor to serve the citizens of the county.

Ashe said she is very proud of her office and how it operates; adding that people receive prompt service in person or on the phone. Ashe said the clerk’s offices are more spread out than they used to be and may not be as visible but the services are still there. If re-elected, Ashe said she intends to continue providing that top level of service. After all the questions were complete, candidates were allowed to make closing remarks. Ashe said before she came to work at the clerk’s office in 1988 she didn’t know what the job entailed but soon learned “the job is complex and requires years of training to perform properly.”

Ashe said the criminal division ranges from simple traffic tickets to murder and the civil division has many facets from child custody hearings to divorces.

Ashe said the clerk of court is responsible for maintaining court files, court minutes, serving as ex officio judge of probates and numerous other roles. Ashe said she has attended many continuing education classes over the years and invites people to come speak to her about her job. Ashe said her experience is “invaluable” and that between herself and her staff they have 72 years of experience in the clerk’s office.

Ashe said she has served the office of clerk of court with integrity, honesty and dignity and promised to maintain those high standards.

“I am the candidate that has the years of experience needed to expertly and proficiently do this job,” Ashe said.

Robinson said during the campaign and the forum, there was a lot of discussion about experience, but experience in and of itself is not always positive.

“Experience as the status quo, stagnates progress and creates an environment were vision is absent,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that Ashe has had nine years since elected to move the clerk’s office forward but since that time she claimed there has been an “erosion of accessibility and responsiveness that were once the hallmarks of this office.”

In her personal and professional life, Robinson said she has never been satisfied with “average results” and believes as a public servant it is her responsibility to demand excellence for county citizens.

“If you believe, as I do, that our community deserves nothing less than the best – a clerk’s office that is responsive, accessible, competent and a clerk’s office dedicate to serving – then I ask that you stand with me…as you pass your vote for clerk of superior court,” Robinson said.

 
 

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