July 16, 2011
It's an election that doesn't come around all that often, but the Charlottesville Clerk of Circuit Court position is a big job with big benefits.
The eight-year position carries with it a yearly salary of more than $100,000. And many people know little about it.
That's why the local Democratic Party held a forum Saturday morning to inform voters of the position and the candidates. The three candidates for Charlottesville Circuit Court clerk took the hot seats, explaining the job they all want. The three candidates described what the job entails.
Llezelle Dugger, an attorney in the public defender's office and member of the Charlottesville School board, said it involves all the paperwork in dealing with criminal matters, civil matters, marriages and adoptions, among other things. Pam Melampy, a deputy clerk in Albemarle County, calls the position a "very important constitutional officer."
"It's difficult to [describe] in 10 words or less because we have so many duties," said Paul Garrett, the incumbent who has held the position for more than 30 years.
Dugger and Melampy are hoping to unseat Garrett in the upcoming election. The firehouse primary is scheduled for Aug. 20, and Saturday's forum informed voters of what the candidates hope to accomplish in office.
"It was great to get the knowledge out there to the citizens," Melampy said.
"I was really heartened by the attendance," Dugger said. "We almost had a full room, which is great."
Each of the candidates admits not everyone in Charlottesville knows what the clerk of court does. After the forum, voters began to understand.
"Yes, I really didn't have any idea they were involved in so much money coming into the courts," forum attendee Kristene Lewis said.
Budgets and keeping up with technology are some of the issues the candidates addressed. Charlottesville Circuit Court public records are not available online, as many other localities' records are. It's a process that Garrett said he is overseeing, and his opponents said they want to see it sooner.
"I definitely was able to form some opinions based on their responses to the questions," Lewis said.
The candidates said they found the forum useful to speak about their platforms.
"I think I have the experience to operate the office in an efficient manner," Garrett said.
"I know what courteous friendly service is all about, and I have the knowledge that makes me the best candidate," Melampy said.
"It's a hard job to do, and you need to have someone who has the energy and intelligence to do it well. My personal opinion is I'm that person," Dugger said.
The firehouse primary is set up in that voters will not choose just one candidate. Rather, voters will list their preference of the three candidates in order. Voting will take place at Burley Middle School on Rose Hill Drive.
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