If a cut glass vase is an indicator, then her colleagues throughout the state believe Marcia Johnson is a diamond in the rough.
Clerk of Courts since 2004, after extended service as a deputy, Johnson was honored as “Clerk of the Year” earlier this month by the state clerks association, comprising representatives from each of Florida’s 67 counties, from the largest to the smallest, to which Franklin is pretty close.
A crystal vase attesting to the honor was given her by the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers Association’s conference banquet June 10 at in Palm Beach County. There, she was also sworn in as the secretary of the association for the year beginning July 1 which, if the traditional succession of officers holds true, and there are no electoral surprises, means Johnson would be association president in 2018.
“I was certainly honored to receive such statewide recognition, and I am grateful to have the respect and friendship of the other clerks throughout the state,” she said, later telling county commissioners she was grateful to have been given the honor by the statewide association (which includes enormous counties with condominium complexes that rival the size of Franklin).
“You don’t usually see that go to a clerk from a small county,” said Johnson. “I am appreciative of my staff, the county officials, the county employees and our citizens who support me in my commitment to excellence.”
In her statement, Johnson also referred to the political side of her office, one which she secured by a narrow margin in 2004, and then was twice returned to office without opposition.
“I plan to seek re-election in 2016, and in that journey, I strive to make Franklin County proud,” she said. “To be from one of the smallest counties and receive this award is very exciting.”
That status as one of the state’s smallest makes Franklin a deficit county, now known as a “funded” county. Because the county’s bounty of court fines and fees is not enough to cover the cost of the court operations, about $636,000 annually, it makes up that deficit by getting funds from more well-heeled counties.
“It’s not just Franklin County,” she said. “Civil traffic brings in a lot of money for a lot of counties. We don’t have an interstate; they generate a lot more civil traffic monies.”
The task of administering the finances and clerical tasks of county government comes from monies funded by about $318,000 annually from the county budget. With experience in the clerk’s office, and a hands-on management style, Johnson has over the past decade overseen an office known for efficiency and courtesy, meeting the demands of more extensive reporting requirements and digitizing of clerk functions.
She also has moved between staying away from county issues that are not her province, to not shying away from speaking out on those that directly affect the financial health and policymaking under her direction.
“If they (the county commissioners) ask for my input, I’m always available,” she said.
Also, there is the clerk’s duty to make sure all the monies owed the county are paid. “That’s a challenge,” said Johnson. “The big issue for courts through the state is making sure everything’s assessed on a case that could be, and that we’re striving to collect as much as we collect.”
People who are indigent, or who go to prison, are pitfalls to collecting monies assessed by judges, but for those who are able but unwilling to pay, there’s the last resort, a collection agency out of Lake City in Columbia County.
Johnson has schooled herself in these operational issues, chairing since 2009 the association’s Best Practice Committee, which develops and implements suggested processes and practices with statewide consistency for use in clerk’s daily operations. She also has served on the CiviTek Board of Managers, which oversees the management of various business aspects of the Association programs, and on the Self Help/Pro Se Committee which provides input to promote access to the court for those people without attorneys.
While she has made welcome strides in implementing digital access for court documents, completing the entire task will be in the years ahead, she said.
“It will be happening, I’m not sure when,” she said, noting that the Florida Supreme Court recently issued an administrative order about releasing electronic records, although not with a specific mandate.
Johnson should be well-versed in the issue, having served on the CLERICUS Subcommittee which provides support for a clerk’s software used in 35 counties, and on the Performance Improvement and Efficiencies Committee for the Clerk of Court Operations Corporation which reviews and recommends performance measure changes and reporting needs for state clerks.
She also serves on the Florida Supreme Court’s Advisory Workgroup on Family Law Forms.
A lifelong resident of Franklin County, the former Marcia Martina is married to Robbie Johnson, and they have three sons, Brock, Brett, and Brad, and five grandchildren, Alexus, Abby, Averie, Brody, and Easton.
As well as participating in many community and volunteer activities over the years, she is a member of Philaco Woman’s Club and St. George Island Civic Club, and attends St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.