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With the decision by District Clerk Marvin Ann Patterson not to seek re-election, someone new will take over that office on Jan. 1, 2015, for the first time in several decades.
Two people are candidates have filed to succeed her, both in the March 4 Republican Primary.
One of the candidates is Shawntel Golden, one of Ms. Patterson’s employees for the past 17 years, including the last seven years as chief deputy.
The other candidate is Susan Flanary-Turner, a court reporter for 35 years until her retirement in 2010. Her father, C.V. Flanary, was county judge of Lamar County from 1958 to 1962.
Both candidates participated Feb. 6 in a forum sponsored by the Lamar County Republican Party. Each gave an opening statement, then were allowed up to two minutes to respond to two questions submitted to them in advance.
Here are their comments from that forum:
SHAWNTEL GOLDEN, 40, 541 County Road 23200, Paris — I am Shawntel Golden. I’m a lifelong resident of Paris and Lamar County. I graduated from Chisum High School and attended Paris Junior High School and Texas A&M-Commerce.
I’m married to Adam Golden, and we have two children, Garrett and Chesney. We make our home in the Ambia community. We are co-owners of Golden Concrete. We are members of New Hope Baptist Church, where I teach a Sunday School class.
I am an active member of Lamar County Republicans, where I serve on the Membership Committee. I am also a member of the Paris Rodeo and Horse Club and the Paris Kiwanis Club.
I began my career with Lamar County in the tax assessor/collectors office in June of 1994. I transferred to the district clerk’s office in May 1996, where I have worked for the past 17 years. I am currently the chief deputy, a position that I’ve held for the past seven years.
I am well-versed in day-to-day operations of the office. My primary job is our criminal department. However, I have vast experience in civil, jury selection, budget, grand jury, and other duties. My extensive experience working in the district clerk’s office makes me the most qualified candidate in this race.
When elected, my goal will be to continue to serve Lamar County as faithfully as I have for the past 19 years with integrity, diligence and friendly service. I would appreciate your vote on March 4. Thank you.
SUSAN FLANARY-TURNER, 59, 3005 Margaret St., Paris – I am Susan Flanary-Turner, and I’m running for district clerk. As a court reporter, I spent my adult life in this courthouse. My dad was an attorney and Lamar County Judge. My mother was a court reporter, and my husband, Dave, is an attorney.
After college, I attended Dallas Court Reporting School, and then I returned to Paris and managed my court reporting firm until 2010. I spent 35 years working with the district courts of this state, as well as the federal courts. I served as president of the Texas Court Reporters Association with a statewide membership of 1,500 reporters and an annual budget of $500,000, for which I was responsible.
I think we can all agree that government is too large and too expensive. When I am elected clerk, I will make immediate and significant reductions in the cost of operations in this office as well as make it more efficient and user-friendly. This clerk’s office has been run in the same way for 50 years. It must be brought into the 21st Century if we’re going to reduce the size and cost of the office and benefit the taxpayers.
My opponent’s campaign insists that the office is technologically up to date. In response to an article about me in eParisExtra, Ms. Golden’s campaign treasurer, Lynn Patterson, stated that Lamar County is filing papers via the Internet. It’s called e-filing. His statement was: “As for bringing the office into the 21st Century, the latest technology is already being used, with their office being one of the first in the state to implement e-filing.”
That statement is uninformed. An attorney in Dallas contacted the district clerk’s office just yesterday regarding e-filing and was told there is no e-filing in Lamar County.
There are three major factors in managing the district clerk’s office. 1) Cost-effective, no-waste government; 2) Smart, efficient and reliable service; and 3) Friendly and helpful employees.
I want to be your next district clerk, and I would appreciate your vote. Thank you.
QUESTION 1: If elected, which specific expenses do you plan on cutting in the office of district clerk?
SUSAN FLANARY-TURNER — The district clerk’s office is over-staffed. The employees are not cross-trained. This is to say that the criminal clerk can’t do what the civil clerks do, and vice versa.
A prime example of the lack of cross-training occurred recently when (someone) went to Ms. Golden, the criminal clerk, and simply asked her to generate a list of his client’s civil cases. She was unable to do so and told him he would have to wait until (the district clerk) returned the following day.
With a reduction of civil cases being filed due to tort reform, which was spearheaded successfully by the Republican Party, cross-training of the civil and criminal clerk will reflect a reduction in staff.
The annual budget of the district clerk’s office is $423,605. I will reduce the personnel budget by $39,700 by eliminating one clerk.
I will cut the travel and budget in half, from $2,000 to $1,000. I will cut my travel expense from $1,200 to $600.
In this day and age, everyone has a cell phone. I see no reason that this county should provide an allowance for a cell phone. I will eliminate the $360 cell phone allowance.
This would be an immediate reduction of the office’s budget of approximately 10 percent.
SHAWNTEL GOLDEN – The district clerk’s office budget is a little over $423,000. Of this amount, 96 percent is salaries, taxes and benefits. The other 4 percent is office supplies, materials, travel and required training. The district clerk’s office is mandated by the state to have 20 continuing education hours.
There is nothing tighter than our budget, and every year we have been able to return money to the General Fund that we didn’t use for office supplies and materials.
I do foresee a savings to the taxpayers of Lamar County of over $22,000 beginning in January of 2015 as two salary levels go to Clerk I phase and two high longevity pays are decreased.
To reduce any further would definitely impact the services to Lamar County and its taxpayers. We have been at our current level of employees for over 15 years. I know what it’s like to work in the clerk’s office with eight employees working alongside the district clerk.
When elected, I will be a working clerk, working alongside my employees in the office to provide excellent service to the public and the taxpayers. Thank you.
QUESTION 2 — What do you see as the biggest challenge for the office of district clerk, and what are you going to change if you are elected?
SHAWNTEL GOLDEN –The biggest challenge I may face when elected as clerk might be transition to our new computer system, the Odyssey program. It’s a web-based program purchased last fall by Lamar County.
This program replaces our current program, which is over 20 years old. However, I also believe that it will be a smoother transition, my already knowing the day-to-day operations and workings at the district clerk’s office.
Our office is currently participating in online training for this computer program, and we are set to begin in-office training in April.
This program will allow all the necessary things for e-filing that was state-mandated for Lamar County beginning in January 2016.
As for anything I would change, Ms. Patterson is known for being the best district clerk in the state, and I don’t believe you get that reputatation if things in your office aren’t working well.
We have worked with the State of Texas library and developed aggressive records management for all of our files. We have been working for more than 11 years scanning all of our files and are currently back to the late 1980s. This scan will allow a smooth transition moving to the paperless environment.
Two of our three judges have installed a computer on the bench so they can retrieve and enter information on the cases they are hearing.
I am confident that I can assure my office will continue to serve the taxpayers in the sane, efficient manner that Ms. Patterson has provided Lamar County for over 30 years. Thank you.
SUSAN FLANARY-TURNER – The district clerk’s office is currently using 30-year-old software provided by Tyler Technologies. Tyler informed Lamar Coubnty that it was the last county in Texas still using this antiquated software, and support would either be unavailable or unbelievably expensive.
At the current district clerk’s insistence, Lamar County spent about a quarter of a million dollars to upgrade to the Odyssey software package, even though neighboring counties had told Lamar County they were having severe problems with this software package. As a result, films and other data are having to be re-created and entered into the new system.
The biggest problem facing me when I am elected will be getting the new software to work. It’s going to be a job, but I can do it.
Changes? The district clerk’s office is currently closed during the noon hour. The first change that I will implement when elected will be to keep the office open during the noon hour.
The employees in the district clerk’s office are not cross-trained. I will immediately begin cross-training all employees, a policy that is not currently in place, and make the office more efficient and better serve the public.
I am not afraid of work. I started working when I was 14 years old, at summer jobs and worked continually, including my years in college and in court reporting school until my retirement in court reporting in 2010. I will never ask my employees to do anything I am not willing to do myself.
Beginning on Day One, I will make an analysis of the policies and procedures of the district clerk’s office to identify and make changes to better and more efficiently serve the taxpayers of Lamar County. Thank you.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra