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Three candidates compete for Sumter Clerk of Superior Court

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS — There are three candidates running for the position of Clerk of Superior Court of Sumter County, to be decided upon in the May 24 election, Cortisa Barthell, Misty Harry, and Chealsea Austin Cromer. The position is currently held by Nancy Smith, who will be retiring from office at the conclusion of 2016.
Each candidate was asked to answer a series of questions via e-mail and send their responses to the Times-Recorder for publication.
Barthell, a Sumter County native, is currently employed as a Sumter County Superior & State Court deputy clerk.
She is running as a Democrat and has not previously run for public office.
Asked what changes she would like to see in the office, Barthell told the Times-Recorder, “Some of the changes I would not only like to see but would work with my team to assure that they are made are as follows:
“I would make sure all deputy clerks are first trained with adequate customer service skills. I think this is a key element to the overall success of any office especially one dealing with the public.
“I would be sure all deputy clerks are crossed trained so there is never a period where a citizen comes into the office and is unable to be serviced due to the absence of one.
“I would improve on the equipment the deputy clerks utilize in an effort to make their work day more productive and less tedious.”
Asked about her educational background, Barthell responded, “ … I have studied at Georgia Southwestern State University to achieve a degree in business management. Although not required for my position, in 2015, I decided to pursue a degree in criminal justice, at Darton College, to further my knowledge.”
In response to the inquiry about her qualifications for the position of Sumter County Clerk of Superior Court, Barthell stated, “As a Current Deputy Clerk, I know what running this office details. I have been trained to handle most of the day to day aspects of the office. Functions such as assisting judges, attorneys, and average citizens with opening new cases or filing documents in a case; filing and researching liens, UCC’s, and real estate documents; filing, docketing, entering data, collecting funds; and balancing daily deposits and providing great customer service. Not only do I have knowledge from working in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office but I also have numerous years of experience working in Administrative and Management positions. I have worked for the county since 2010 supervising, allocating invoices, balancing budgets and introducing innovative ideas to help my department run better. My experience as a manager, administrative assistant and customer service supervisor will help me tremendously in running the clerk’s office. I will provide leadership that will make sure the employees are knowledgeable and the public is met with friendly faces.”
Asked what she would like voters to know about her, Barthell said, “I would like the local voters to know that I am the best choice for Sumter County Superior Court Clerk Office and if I am elected they will not be disappointed. I do not claim to know every in and out of the office or to be able to run this office single handedly, but I will be committed to serving all of the citizens of Sumter County. I will treat everyone I come in contact with dignity and respect whether it’s a judge, attorney, inmate or average person off the street. I will learn something new every day and make it a point to run the clerk’s office efficiently, professionally and productively. I have a passion for people and my calling is to serve, please allow me to serve the Citizens of Sumter County in this capacity.
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Cromer, a resident of Americus, is currently employed as a manager of Volunteer Engagement with Habitat for Humanity International.
Cromer is running for Clerk of Superior Court of Sumter County on the Democratic ticket.
Asked what changes she would like to see in the office of Clerk of Superior Court of Sumter County, Cromer stated, “I would like to see the office staff fully cross trained to be able to provide better customer service to the public when the primary staff is away from the office. I would also like to appoint a Chief Deputy Clerk. This office has not had a Chief Deputy since my mother, Jane Austin Bailey, left her position as Chief Deputy Clerk to work for Judge Rucker Smith in 2006.”
Cromer, who has not previously run for public office, received a bachelor of business administration from Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) in 2007, graduating magna cum laude. She went on to earn a master of business administration from GSW in 2008.
Asked about her qualifications for the office, Cromer responded, “I have spent the last five years working in the nonprofit sector. Through my work with Habitat for Humanity International and the American Cancer Society, I have gained the experience of managing staff, community events, and over 200 volunteers. I also have the experience of preparing budgets as well as building and managing relationships. I have over 12 years of experience in customer service. I worked under the current clerk, Nancy C. Smith, in the Clerk’s office while completing my degree. During this time, I also worked for the Sumter County Board of Commissioners’ office as the Administrative Accounting Assistant. Through these positions, I gained valuable insight into the workings of the court system, the Superior Court Clerk’s office as well as the local Sumter County government.”
Asked what she would like local voters to know about her, Cromer said, “ I was born and raised in Americus, GA. I am the daughter of Jane Austin Bailey and David Austin, both of Sumter County. I am married to Jamie Cromer, son of Jim and Jackie Cromer, also of Americus. We have a two year old daughter, Tate. My family and I attend First Baptist Church of Americus.
“I enjoy working with the public and take pride in my work ethic as well as the level of education and experience I have achieved. I would love to utilize my talents to serve the citizens of Sumter County as the next Clerk of Superior Court.”
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Misty Harry, of Americus, is currently employed as a deputy Clerk of State and Superior Courts in Sumter County. She is running as a Democrat. She has not previously run for public office.
In response to inquiries about what changes she would like to see made in the office of the Clerk of Superior Court of Sumter County, Harry replied, “I happen to think Mrs. Nancy Smith has done a fantastic job as our clerk for the last 17 years, and for that reason, there aren’t many changes I would make. I work with her every day, and she and I think alike on most everything. The main change I would make is to modernize the office a bit more to make it more convenient for the public. Implementing E-Filing, installing a credit card machine, and making a public access search terminal for our records are a few plans I have. I would also appoint a chief deputy clerk to ensure my policies are followed even if I’m just on my lunch hour, and I would continue to look for new and innovative ways to improve the Sumter County court system.”
Harry is a two-time 2010 graduate of Darton College with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies and an associate’s degree in business administration. She is also a 2013 graduate of Georgia Southwestern State University with a bachelor’s degree of business administration in management.
Asked about her qualifications for the office of Clerk of Superior Court of Sumter County, Harry answered, “I am currently the longest serving full time deputy clerk of superior court. I have been well-trained by our current clerk in nearly every area of the office. I am the only deputy clerk to be cross-trained and experienced with the ability to work unassisted in almost every division of the clerk’s office. I’ve been the Board of Equalization clerk, which the clerk of superior court is administrator of, since 2011 and a certified passport acceptance agent since 2012. I’m the only deputy clerk to have assisted the court in jury selection without the assistance or presence of the clerk, and I’m in the courtroom weekly performing the duties of the clerk as a deputy. I have no doubt that I can do this job and do it well. I’m confident enough to say that if I was elected tomorrow, I could take on the job and never miss a beat.”
Asked what she would like local voters to know about her, Harry stated, “My dream of becoming clerk didn’t start for me the day Mrs. Nancy announced her retirement. It started long before that. It’s something I’ve worked for since I began my career in the office with the hopes of being worthy of your votes one day. For almost five years, I’ve looked for every opportunity to learn as much as I can and to prove myself as being worthy of this job. I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life, and it’s got nothing to do with status or anything else beyond my love and commitment to this office. Even though I knew there would be risks involved given the political nature of the job, I decided I would just work hard while I waited for this opportunity learning all that I could in the process. It means that much to me. This is way more than just a job to me, and I will work hard for you every day just as I have for the last five years.”