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Candidate Survey: Clerk of Court

Candy Burgin, Fred Hatley, and Alex Patton

Candy Burgin, Fred Hatley and Alex Patton

Editor’s Note: The Lincoln Times-News submitted a series of seven questions to candidates running in the May 6 primary on the Republican ticket in the Clerk of Court election. Their responses are listed below.

Why did you decide to run for Clerk of Court?
Candy Burgin: I was approached a year ago from several citizens and attorneys to consider running for Clerk of Superior Court in 2014. Upon much prayer and advice from my family, I chose to do so. The Clerk of Court is responsible to the Citizens of Lincoln County and is the front line interface between the court system and the taxpayers. In essence, whoever serves as the Clerk of Court is responsible for providing a professional and responsive service to the taxpayers. There is much need to provide accountability, fulltime customer service, and availability to this office.
Fred Hatley (incumbent): I have been Clerk of Court for the past 12 years.  I love my job and the people I work with.  I am the most qualified candidate running.
Alex Patton: First and foremost, because I enjoy serving the citizens of Lincoln County.  I do not get to be everywhere I need to be and I miss a lot of community events due to my full-time job, which keeps me from home 60 to 65 hours a week.  This position would allow me to serve the community full-time and be more involved in community organizations in other areas.  I want to take the Clerks office to a new level of customer service by offering friendly, fast, efficient service to our citizens.

What qualifications do you have that make you feel you are the best candidate for this office?
Burgin: I am a proven leader for my experience in leadership roles such as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of Lincoln County Board of Education and Vice-Chairperson and Chairperson for City of Lincolnton Planning Board of Adjustments. These positions assist me in my roles in making legal and concise decisions. My experience with NC Department of Transportation assists me in Human Resource Administration in many areas such as hiring qualified applicants through the NEOGOV process, maintaining confidentiality at all times and adhering to all NC General Statutes, and Policies and Procedures. I am effective at providing excellent customer service and assisting everyone’s needs in a kind manner with direct results. I bring to this position valuable experience in administration and personnel and I have spent years as a team builder. I will provide a professional and responsive service to the citizens of Lincoln County by providing accountability, availability and customer service.
Hatley: I have 12 years experience in the office.  I handle Estates and Special Proceedings, Civil Filings, Jury Selection, Recording service for the entire office in our VCAP computer system, and closing out the Cashiers at the end of the workday.  I have a Master’s Degree from Appalachian State University, in Boone.  I am a 31-year retiree from Lincoln County Schools.
Patton: I am the candidate with the most diverse and qualified background. I served 15 years in the Military. I have spent 30 years in retail management, currently managing up to 150 employees and I have spent 10 years as your County Commissioner serving as the Chair for the last five years.  There can be no excuses when it comes to providing quality customer service.  I have spent 30 years meeting the expectations of our customers and leading by example.  Our citizens deserve that same level of service.  I have the management and leadership skills to excel as your next Clerk of Court.

What changes, improvements or projects would you like to see implemented in the clerk’s office, should you win the general election in November?
Burgin: One of my top goals is to have someone answer the phones, when citizens call they get voicemails that are full and cannot leave a message. Citizens vote the Clerk in their position and the Clerk is elected to serve the citizens by being there to answer their questions, in person and by phone. I have researched area Clerks offices that are utilizing the same phone systems and these much larger offices do not have this problem, so making sure voicemail boxes are cleaned out daily to insure that the public can get through when attempting to call. Advocating to the Administration of Courts to have phone lines that allows an option for an operator to answer and forward calls as necessary and possibly be able to answer their questions without citizens having to wait on return phone calls. Another goal is provide structure, accountability, availability and insure customer service to the Clerk’s office by being there, working alongside the staff daily, being a support for them as much as for the citizens. I know that you can’t make everyone happy all the time but sometimes being able to assist someone is just taking the time to listen and let them know you care enough to find the answer for them.
Hatley: I would like to see an improvement in our AD-MINT court on Fridays.  I would like to have the opportunity to work with our DA-elect, Mike Miller, if we both should win.
Patton: I will be in the office and lead by example. Customer service will be the focus of the department and everyone will receive the polite, professional, one-on-one service they deserve.  Telephones will be answered and answering machines will not be left unchecked. Calls will be returned in a timely and efficient manner.  The citizens are our customers and will be treated as such.

Detail the ways Republican principles are applicable to the clerk’s office.
Burgin: Both Republican and Democrats have to follow North Carolina General Statues and laws. I would hope that anyone in this elected position would be of someone that had integrity and goals to follow all laws set upon them.
Hatley: Our office is neither Republican nor Democrat in nature.  We meet the needs of all the people.  With me being a Republican, I tend to be more conservative in my personal nature, but being fair and equal to everyone is my policy.
Patton: I can only tell you my principles. I will treat each employee and customer in a professional manner.  I will serve with honor and integrity and will act as a Christian should.  We will be conservative in spending the county’s money as I have as a Commissioner. We will look for ways to become more efficient and lower costs where and when we can. We will streamline, update, reorganize and anything else we have to do to serve more effectively.

What do you expect will be your biggest challenge(s) if elected into office? How do you plan to address them?
Burgin: I feel my biggest challenge will be, if elected, learning the department processes. I will address this challenge by being there on a daily basis learning alongside the staff and attending educational trainings that the Administrative Office of Courts mandates.
Hatley: I have no idea what will be my biggest challenge, but whatever it may be, I will deal with it in a positive and fair manner. I have dealt with many challenges over the past 12 years. I realize I cannot make everyone happy in my decision-making, but I try to do what is fair and unbiased.
Patton: I think it will be a culture change for a lot of folks. I am in a business that demands answers immediately and has to resolve issues immediately to the customer’s satisfaction.  I am used to making difficult decisions and will lead on a daily basis. We work for the taxpayers and should treat them as our employers.  I plan on using the knowledge I have gained in the retail world to make the office more user friendly.

How have your past experiences shaped your view of local politics and this government role?
Burgin: In my past experiences through Chairing the Board of Education and City of Lincolnton Board of Adjustments, has educated me on North Carolina General Statues and Policies and Procedures.
Hatley: I attempt to treat everyone that comes into the office the way I would like to be treated. In a fair and unbiased manner.
Patton: It takes politics to get elected here or anywhere else.  I am a conservative Republican and will continue to be. However, when I was sworn into office as a County Commissioner, I promised to serve all the citizens of this county and have tried to do just that for the last 10 years.  I have spent my time working 60 to 65 hours a week at my full-time job, then serving as the Chair of the Board, serving as the Chair of the DSS Board, serving as an Advisory Board Member to CMC-Lincoln, serving on the LEDA Board just to name a few.  That being said, I have not been really engaged in the party or  local politics.  I have been serving our county instead. I will continue to serve all the citizens should I be elected as the next Clerk of Court.

What do you believe are some of the accomplishments previous Clerk of Court officials have achieved?
Burgin: Previous Clerks have used the process of accountability, availability and customer service. The current Clerk does not and this is why the citizens of this county approached me to run for this office. To provide what the citizens of Lincoln County deserve to be provided, Accountability, Availability and fulltime customer service.
Hatley: In my 12 years, working at the courthouse, I have accomplished the following: Now the courthouse is entirely a Judicial environment, with the exception of Emergency Management, in the Basement; we now have Video Arraignment; I have helped update our computer system, which is still running behind the County IT system; we now have better cross-training for all of our departments; there is a better willingness to get advanced training; I helped develop better micro-filming of all court records; we have more and better filing and storage areas; we now have a private hearing room for secure confidential hearings; my office provides a friendly, open environment for everyone that steps into the courthouse.
Patton: This election is not about the past. This election is about who is most qualified to be the Clerk of Court for the next four years in Lincoln County. We are blessed to have three good candidates running for this position.  I have the most diverse background, proven leadership skills, the ability to take the department to a new level of customer service, and as I have for the last ten years I will serve with integrity and honesty.   I have 15 years of military experience, 30 years of management and 10 years of elected service. Experience that matters.  I would appreciate your vote on May 6.

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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