by Andrew Cauthen
With less than a week before the July 31 primary, candidates for the DeKalb County clerk of Superior Court met in a forum.
The forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Champion, featured three of the five candidates for the position. Incumbent Superior Court clerk Debra DeBerry faced challengers Oretha Brown-Johnson and Frank Swindle.
Candidates John Q. Carter and Cheryl D. Vortice did not show up for the forum.
Brown-Johnson, who retired in March from the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office where she worked as the administrative coordinator of case management and operations, said her “experience in Superior Court is vast.”
At times, Brown-Johnson said she has managed a case load of approximately 123,000 cases.
If elected to the position, Brown-Johnson said she plans “to restore the efficiency….by way of great leadership, adding to the current infrastructure of restoring what’s there and also looking forward to what we can work on to enhance by way of technology.”
“I understand the efficiency and infrastructure of the government of DeKalb County,” Brown-Johnson said.
DeBerry, who has held the clerk’s position since March 2011, said she plans “to maintain and increase our current level of efficiency.”
“I have eliminated all overtime spending,” said DeBerry. “I have eliminated backlog. We are very proud of that because that took a lot of work [and] a lot of process improvement.
“We have 24 hour turnaround of documents…anything filed at two o’clock in the afternoon can be on the 5 o’clock news. That was not the case…when I came to the clerk’s office.”
With nine million documents imaged, DeBerry said her office has made steps toward achieving her goal of going paperless.
Swindle, who worked as a case manager for Superior Court judges before resigning to run an attorney services company three years ago, said he wants to bring the clerk’s office into the 21st century.
“We have major counties surrounding DeKalb that have all online systems where you can file your documents online,” said Swindle, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “You can view your documents online [and] have access to your documents online. Why not DeKalb?
“I see no reason to wait on it,” Swindle said. “I see no reason for red tape.”
Swindle said he would also promote community service and involvement by the clerk’s office.
When asked to describe the importance of the clerk’s office, Swindle said, “The clerk’s office receives, maintains and processes all the records for the county.
“[It] is the business arm of the court,” Swindle said. “This is where all your official court records are kept. It would be chaos if there was no clerk’s office.”
DeBerry said the clerk’s position is one of the oldest municipal jobs in the country.
“It’s statutory,” DeBerry said. “It’s the law. It is constitutional. I am a constitutional officer.
“The clerk is designed to serve as checks and balances in government,” DeBerry said. “We’re a neutral entity.”
Brown-Johnson said the clerk’s office is important because “it manages your life.”
“When you have a divorce [or] when devastation hits our neighborhoods…it’s where we can go to retrieve our information,” she said.
“It’s crucial that the clerk’s office maintains records in great standing,” Brown-Johnson said.