Originally created 07/12/00

Court clerk hopefuls pit law, local insight



Cindy Mason is counting on her experience, but Sandra Washington is relying on her knowledge of Columbia County and its government.

Both women are running for clerk of Columbia County Superior Court. And as Tuesday's Republican primary draws near, the campaign trail is heating up.

"I feel like someone related to Columbia County needs to be in that position," Mrs. Washington said. "I know Columbia County government, and I am familiar with the judicial system."

For the past seven years, Mrs. Washington has served as clerk of Magistrate Court. And, in 1996, she was sworn in as a magistrate judge. Prior to her work in Columbia County, she worked in Richmond County as a deputy clerk in the Civil and Magistrate courts.

Her opponent has 24 years' experience in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. Mrs. Mason works as a court reporter transcribing court proceedings, and has worked in other areas of Superior Court.

During a recent public forum, Mrs. Mason said that, unlike her opponent, she would need no training to take office.

"I had to do office rotations and by the time I left in 1986, there wasn't a position I couldn't fill in for or do," she said. "I don't feel she (Mrs. Washington) has the hands-on experience needed for the job. There is a big difference between Magistrate and Civil Court and Superior Court."

Mrs. Washington said she recognizes her weaknesses in the areas of real estate transactions and jury selection, but is confident she would be a quick study.

"I learn things very quickly and feel that I could catch in no time," she said.

The job involves more than knowledge of court documents and procedures. The clerk also must be an administrator - that includes compiling budgets and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office.

"I have done budgets, and I have experience in personnel management with my job as clerk of Magistrate Court," Mrs. Washington said.

Mrs. Mason said she is confident in her administrative abilities. She said she has management and budgeting experience through operating a free-lance court reporting firm.

The new clerk of court will be responsible for moving the office from its location in Appling to the new courthouse in Evans.

Mrs. Mason said she has experience in this area, too. She was involved in a similar move in Richmond County several years ago.

"Experience is the majority of the role of Superior Court clerk," Mrs. Mason said. "I have worked in a superior courtroom setting every day for the last 14 years," she said.

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109.

Cindy Mason

Age: 42

Family: husband, Harry; three children, Matthew, 15, Chelsea, 12 and Josh, 9

Columbia County residency: 23 years

Employment: Court reporter in the Augusta Judicial Circuit

Education: high school graduate

Campaign contributions: $13,995

Campaign expenditures: $13,267

Sandra Washington

Age: 39

Family: husband, Jeff; two children, Jace, 13, and Kacey, 11

Columbia County residency: 12 years

Employment: Columbia County clerk of Magistrate Court

Education: high school graduate

Campaign contributions: $15,056

Campaign expenditures: $13,004