Longtime Richmond County clerk of court faces first challenger since being elected

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This year’s clerk of court race pits an incumbent with 19 years of experience in her post against a former clerk hoping to fulfill her longtime dream of becoming the chief of record keeping for Richmond County courts.

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The challenger, Hattie Holmes-Sullivan, started working in the clerk’s office in 1978, five years after the current clerk, Elaine Johnson, began her career. Holmes-Sullivan, who eventually became an administrative assistant at the clerk’s office, said she learned an early lesson from then-Clerk Helen Speltz on the importance of accuracy in every document. One letter or one number amiss can make a big difference, she said.

“I can still hear (Speltz’s) voice saying, ‘Make sure that is right,’ ” Holmes-Sullivan said.

As she gained experience and achieved a supervisory role as administrative assistant, Holmes-Sullivan set her sights on the top job as clerk of court, which carries a four-year term.

She confided her dream of becoming clerk of court to her family but recognized she still needed to develop experience.

“You can’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to be the clerk,’ ” Holmes-Sullivan said. “You have to work toward it.”

It also takes an election, and Holmes-Sullivan, who left the clerk’s office in 2005 to become an assistant to State Court Judge David Watkins, is learning from scratch how to run a campaign. Her best piece of advice came from a conversation she overheard between her father and his close friend, Rep. Henry Howard.

Howard, as she recalls, said it takes more than signs to elect a politician; people need to see you in the community.

“That’s always stuck with me,” Holmes-Sullivan said.

For Johnson, re-election represents an opportunity to continue taking her office into the future, specifically in technology. When Johnson first took office in 1993, there were nine computers for the office. That number swelled to 107 in 2011.

Court clerks began scanning case documents in 2003 and made them publicly accessible in 2007. Now in development is a new jury-management system that would allow jurors to fill out questionnaires online. Johnson also wants online filing for civil and criminal papers.

“Technology is the key to these things,” said Johnson, who hasn’t faced opposition since winning the seat in 1992.

The clerk of court might not be as high-profile a position as sheriff or judge, but Johnson urges voters not to skip over checking the ballot box.

“This is a very important office,” she said. “I maintain the people’s records, and you don’t want just anyone” in the office.

ELAINE JOHNSON

AGE: 59

EDUCATION: Augusta Technical College

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Fourth term in office

FAMILY: Husband, one daughter, one granddaughter

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS AS OF JUNE 30: $32,662.76

HATTIE HOLMES-SULLIVAN

AGE: 60

EDUCATION: Lucy C. Laney High School

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: First time running for public office
FAMILY: Son, two daughters, one grandchild, one great-grandchild

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS AS OF JUNE 30: No reports filed

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dichotomy
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dichotomy 07/21/12 - 11:17 am
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Johnson appears to have been

Johnson appears to have been doing a good job. No need to swap horses in this race.

SpiderLily
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SpiderLily 07/21/12 - 11:24 am
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Support Elaine Johnson

Richmond county voters should re-elect Elaine Johnson to her job as clerk of court. I have practiced law in Augusta for 25 years and my employees and I use the clerk's office on a daily basis. Ms. Johnson runs an efficient and well organized office. The employees of the clerk's office are well trained, polite and competent largely as a result of the training and leadership provided by Ms. Johnson.

The clerk's office is a vital and critical component of county government. It assists in running the court system and in maintaining all records of civil and criminal court cases as well as crucial business filings that make it easier to do business in our county.

A well run clerk's office is not a given. I practice law throughout the state and there are many superior court clerk's offices, especially in the metro Atlanta area, where it is virtually impossible to get help or find documents. Richmond county, thanks to the hard work of Elaine Johnson, does not have this problem. If it is not broke, we do not have to fix it. I only wish every branch of our county government ran as smoothly as Ms. Johnson's office. Please vote in the democratic primary on July 31 and re-elect Elaine Johnson clerk of superior court.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 07/21/12 - 01:28 pm
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That's A Lot of Computers!

Hope we don't have one employee for each one! !!

REELECT Elaine Johnson!

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