Circuit-court clerk candidates speak out

Story by Chris Graham

The six candidates vying for the soon-to-be-open Waynesboro circuit-court clerk job agree on … just about everything.

None would institute major changes in the way the office is being run; all would stress customer service as a top priority; and all hope the voters of Waynesboro turn out to the polls on Nov. 4 to let their feelings be known, whoever it is they end up voting for.

That was the main theme of the forum sponsored by the Waynesboro Junior Women’s Club at the Waynesboro Country Club Tuesday night.

In a race largely devoid of issues – the responsibilities of circuit-court clerks are defined in the state code, and clerks, once elected, have little if any discretion as to how to run their offices – personality was the showcase.

Waynesboro sheriff’s deputy Bruce Allen said he would emphasize friendly service and an office philosophy directed toward answering any and all questions about court and legal-records matters in as timely a manner as possible.

“My interest is to give you, the people of Waynesboro, service in the circuit-court clerk’s office that is provided in the most courteous and professional manner possible,” Alllen said.

Deputy circuit-court clerk Nikki Armentrout wants to make the transition from retiring clerk Jeanette Akers to her successor as seamless as possible.

“Waynesboro has never had to experience the training of a novice clerk who has to learn on the job,” Armentrout said. “That office has always been run by somebody who was trained on the job and has learned the ins and outs of this very sensitive office before they were elected.

“I am accustomed to the operations of that office, because I have worked in that office, and I know what the community has come to expect in terms of service, because I have had to provide that service,” Armentrout said. “This isn’t about a job or a salary to me. Serving the community in the best way possible is the most important issue to me.”

Waynesboro SunTrust branch manager Marie Frye talked up her 34 years of experience in the banking industry as the key to her qualifications for the clerk’s job.

“I’ve managed a staff of five full-time employees. I’ve had to manage budgets, and I’ve had every one come in under what I had been budgeted for,” Frye said.

“And I know I can ensure the same quality of service that the clerk’s office in Waynesboro has been able to offer the city over the years,” Frye said.

“I’m a very detail-oriented person, and I understand the importance and integrity of this office,” said Geoffrey MacIlwaine, a retail-business manager and licensed Realtor.

“My career has given me many opportunities to serve in management positions, and I have taken the opportunity to speak with a number of current and retired clerks to learn more about the job. I think I am the best-qualified candidate to handle the complexities and responsibilities of the position,” MacIlwaine said.

Attorney Pete Marks pointed to his 30-plus years of experience practicing law in Waynesboro – and the fact that more and more circuit-court clerk’s offices in Virginia are being led by lawyers.

“That’s not to say that only lawyers should be clerks of court, but there is a trend there in that direction,” Marks said. “I think my experience working with the law and particularly the code of Virginia will be most helpful in the operations of the circuit-court clerk office.”

Another Waynesboro sheriff’s deputy, office deputy Wanda Wilson, cited her experiences in the sheriff’s office and also as an office manager and administrator in the health-care field.

“I think where I would focus my attention at the start, if I’m elected, is on working closely with the staff. If you have everybody working together, you can do anything. But if you don’t, everybody’s productivity can go down to zero,” Wilson said.

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