clerk of court jester

Brent Finnegan -- February 27th, 2007

The race for Clerk of Court is beginning to look like a clown car at an auto dealership, which is to say there are too many people running for this one office, and not enough people running for other offices.

A few weeks ago, RockDem commented, “There appears to be a contest shaping up between whether there will be more candidates for Clerk of Court or men claiming to be the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s baby daughter. Sadly in both cases, it seems to be about the money.” Something like $120 grand per year if I’m not mistaken. At that point, there were six candidates: Chaz Evans-Haywood, Mike Harvey, Sarah Jones, Benny Neal, T. Scott Biller, and Cynthia Fitzwater (the apparent front-runner being Chaz, as he seems to be the only candidate with an actual campaign website). There are no Democrats currently running.

Today Myron Rhodes (aka Republitarian) is adding his name to that list, pledging to give $50k of that salary to local charities.

Seriously, there are plenty of other local offices to run for, guys. The ballot is shaping up to look pretty lopsided this fall, with a bunch of uncontested races, and a dozen or so people running for Clerk of Court.

How does the Clerk salary measure up to the other local offices? According to VPAP, “Members of the House are paid $17,640 a year and members of the Senate are paid $18,000 a year. In addition, General Assembly members receive $15,000 a year for office expenses and supplies.” City Council members make $10k, the mayor makes $12.5k, and City School Board members only get between $3,600 and $4,600 for being on the board. It’s pretty obvious that there’s a massive difference in the pay between the Clerk of Court and other elected offices, so I guess it’s no big surprise that everyone is running for that one office.

-finnegan

17 Responses to “clerk of court jester”

  1. Reaganite says:

    The pay is different, but remember that the clerk’s position is a full-time position. It also doesn’t come with the advantage of allowing one to exert power over/set policy for your fellow citizens. It also hasn’t been seen as a stepping stone to higher political office (and that tradition should be maintained).

  2. Adam Sharp says:

    It also hasn’t been seen as a stepping stone to higher political office.”

    In Rockingham, no. In other locales, yes. I believe Clint Miller, who used to be a delegate representing parts of Shenandoah and Rockingham, went from Clerk to Delegate (he was Clerk in Shenandoah).

  3. forehead on keyboard says:

    Don’t forget that the other local constitutional offices are up for grabs this year — sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney. All I have heard about is clerk of court.

    The county registrar’s website lists the following races in November:

    Constitutional Offices (including Clerk of Circuit Court)
    Virginia Senate
    Virginia House of Delegates
    Board of Supervisors (Districts 2,4,5)
    School Board (Districts 2,4,5)
    Soil and Water

    Who/Where are districts 2, 4 & 5?
    What is “soil and water”?

  4. Adam Sharp says:

    While some people may try to make a campaign issue out of how much money the Clerk is paid, remember that there has long been a sentiment in American politics arguing that corruption is decreased by high salaries.

  5. cook says:

    My bookie’s taking bets on the percentage of the vote needed to win the Clerk’s race in November. Any guesses?

  6. ktr001 says:

    Cant we just be happy so many people even care to engage in the political process?

  7. Del Marvel says:

    The way I figure it, the more suspects crawling out from behind the woodwork to join the race the less votes the winner will need. Is there still time for me to file? My annual golf tournament will be frisbee golf so everyone can afford to play, I’ll give a monthly beer bash on court square with pole dancers and I promise to give $50,001 of my annual salary to charities. I swear I’m only motivated by a strong sense of civic duty.

  8. republitarian says:

    Unfortunately, when faced with the choice of 10-15 candidates, the electorate will most likely not choose the most qualified candidate.

    They will elect the one who is smart enough to win the election…..

    I figure if 10 people get in to the race, I need 2.3 voters out of ten to win.

    While I have my opinion on who is the best candidate for Clerk, that is probably better left unsaid.

  9. Del Marvel says:

    Well, I’ve got to hand it to you. That’s got to be the most cynical statement I’ve ever seen from someone supposedly running for public office. :)

  10. Dave Briggman says:

    Adam, that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read…it’s the power that leads to corruption. The Clerk of the Circuit Court has no such power.

    Duke Cunningham’s sitting in jail right now — still collecting his congressional pension and he accepted some $2 million in bribes — notwithstanding his $140K congressional salary on top of, probably, a V.A. pension.

    With the exception of Sheriff, I see no reason why any of the “Constitutional Officers” (Commonwealth Attorney, Treasurer, Commissioner of the Revenue or Clerk of the Circuit Court) should be anything but state or county employees.

    Aaron, I can’t take your bet, only because I still owe you some money!

  11. Adam Sharp says:

    Dave, I thought I could find the quote by Mark Twain that backed up my statement, but I can’t. I do think its interesting that people think that the salary is what is making people run for the position, when no one has run against Goodlatte for years. It’s not the money – it’s because people think the job is easy.

    The Clerk of the Court may not have a lot of power, but the position does entail the administration of the courts (and our CA keeps a lot of cases on the docket), keeping court records, storing deeds (very important for real estate transactions), marriage licenses, and jury pools.

    It may not sound like much, but just wait until someone unqualified wins with 15% (or less) of the vote. If that office is not run well, institutions we depend on to run smoothly will come to a halt, or become slow and unreliable.

    I’ve made the point about the need to have as many elected offices as possible before on this blog. It’s to Wayne Harper’s credit that the office runs so smoothly that no one really understands what goes on there.

    I don’t want to see the county administrator appoint these officers because he’s too powerful as it is. Ditto the city manager. If the General Assembly appointed them, we’d just have more cronyism. If Virginia’s bureaucracy selected them, we’d have unrepresentative and unaccountable officials who could treat citizens like dirt and never have to face the music.

    The system is fine. Just make sure people vote for someone who can actually do the job, and not someone who is making stupid promises or looking to further a political career.

  12. republitarian says:

    “Just make sure people vote for someone who can actually do the job, and not someone who is making stupid promises or looking to further a political career.”

    …what’s your point. I don’t get it…..

  13. Dave Briggman says:

    Adam, I’m not sure where this idea of yours comes from:

    “It’s to Wayne Harper’s credit that the office runs so smoothly that no one really understands what goes on there. ”

    If you’ll take a look at

    http://www.apa.state.va.us/reports/web_reports.asp?T1=County%20of%20Rockingham&T2=Circuit%20Court

    You’ll see the Mr. Harper had a problem getting through State Audits, having repeated errors, until the last reporting period on record…seems it took nearly 32 years for that office to get to the level of “running smoothly”.

  14. republitarian says:

    Adam, I’m looking for a political consultant. Do you know where I can find a good one?

  15. Adam Sharp says:

    Perception is reality, Dave – how much do local residents know about those reports?

    Myron, I would recommend whoever you told me was advising Carolyn Frank.

  16. Del Marvel says:

    I’ll give you some consultation: Lose the gen x facial hair, change your wardrobe and have Dave and Jesse call the radio station for the next 8 months supporting Chaz:) That’ll be 300 bucks.

  17. republitarian says:

    I would prefer to win against ALL odds.

    I did shave…

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