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Election 2020: Independent women vie for clerk of courts

David Adlerstein
dadlerstein@starfl.com
The Apalach Times

It doesn’t look like you’re going to have to concern yourself with party affiliation, or the details of the Aug. 18 primary, when it comes to the clerk of courts race.

As it stands now, both candidates campaigning to succeed the retiring Marcia Johnson are running without party affiliation, so this one is headed right to the Nov. 3 general election.

The two candidates, both longtime staffers in the clerk’s office, who have filed their letters of intent are Erin Hale Griffith, 39, of St. George Island, and Suzanne Michele Maxwell, 47, of Apalachicola.

Both have been on the campaign trail since before the summer of last year. Each has raised a comparable amount of campaign funds, with Maxwell tallying about $9,700 in cash and in-kind contributions so far, and Griffith about $8,200 total.

The picture will become crystal clear during qualifying week, which runs from noon on Monday, June 8 to noon on Friday, June 12.

To be eligible to vote in the general election, you must be sure to be registered by Oct. 5.

ERIN GRIFFITH

Hi, my name is Erin Griffith and I would like to ask for your support and your vote on Nov. 3 to be your next clerk of courts.

The clerk fulfills the role of guardian of public funds and public records. The four primary functions of the clerk’s role are as follows: Chief Financial Officer of the county: serving as the county’s financial manager and internal auditor; Clerk to the Board: attending all meetings of the board of county commissioners and archiving the historical record of those meetings; Clerk to the Court: managing the filing, processing and recording of all court-related documents and juror activities; and County Recorder: preserving and maintaining the official record books of Franklin County.

I have a strong financial background with a bachelor of science degree in finance from Florida State University. I have worked for the Franklin County Clerk of Courts Office since 2003 and I have served as your assistant finance officer since 2008. I am active in the community and committed to making a difference. I am a fifth generation Franklin County resident and met my husband Todd Griffith, a residential contractor in Carrabelle, over 20 years ago.

In my current role, I manage and implement the $50 million county budget, the insurance policies, employee benefits, the accounting and oversight of grants and FEMA funds, cash management, long-term debt, infrastructure projects, and special funds; assist county departments and answer requests for public records relative to financial matters. I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and accountability. The clerk assures that county funds are spent for public purpose, paid according to contract, properly documented and legitimate. I take my job and your money very seriously.

I love Franklin County and want to make a positive difference. I will continue efforts to make the clerk’s office more efficient, open, accessible, and responsive to the needs of all, while enacting changes made to policies and procedures pursuant to Florida law. Please vote for me, Erin Griffith, to be your next clerk of courts on Nov. 3. I will work for you!

MICHELE MAXWELL

It is with great enthusiasm to announce that I have filed my intent to be a candidate for the position of Franklin County's Clerk of Circuit Court. As our long-time clerk in the position, Honorable Marcia M. Johnson plans to retire at the end of this year.

I am a non-partisan candidate seeking office. I have been an employee at the Franklin County Clerk’s office for the past 15 years. I am a fifth generation native of Franklin County. My parents are Billy and Glenda Varnes, also lifelong residents of Franklin County.

I am a 1991 graduate of Apalachicola High School. I have been married to my husband, Jimmy Maxwell for 22 years, together we have our daughter, Myia. I am blessed to be the stepmom of three wonderful sons, Kevin, Ellis, and Marcus. We have five beautiful grandchildren.

I have been a member of the Eastpoint Church of God for the past 22 years. Also, I am a active member of GFWC Philaco Woman’s Club of Apalachicola.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court is a multi-faceted position that involves various duties set by the Florida Constitution, Statutes, Rules of Court, and Governmental Standards of Accounting. The clerk does not make public policy. Moreover, the clerk is a public servant. In addition, the clerk is the docket manager and recordkeeper for our county and circuit courts, as the clerk assists with domestic violence injunctions, audits guardianship records, and maintains record retention. The clerk must also, collect and disburse court fines and fees, conduct foreclosure sales, be the summoner of jurors, the recorder of official records, the issuer of tax deeds, the processor of marriage licenses and passport applications, the county's hub for finance, and the clerk to the board of county commissioners.

It is an honor to have gained over 15 years of experience as a public servant, at the Franklin County clerk’s office. Prior to working at the clerk’s office, I gained almost 10 years of experience, at the law office of Shuler and Shuler. Hence, I begin my career, at the clerk's office in 2004, working and training in various capacities. I brought my knowledge and experience, gained from working in the law office. I use my ability to multi-task to be a leader in the civil division. Additionally, I conduct foreclosure sales, maintain the clerk's website for foreclosure sales, small claims, evictions, dissolution of marriage, child custody, paternity, adoptions, child support, name changes, domestic, repeat, stalking, dating and sexual violence injunctions, probate, guardianship, guardianship audits, Marchman Acts, Baker Acts, juvenile dependency, juvenile delinquency, and appeals. I also handle public records requests within our division.

I am knowledgeable in all aspects of the clerk’s operation. Further, I travel to work at our courthouse annex in Carrabelle to assist customers. It is there, I am able to assist customers in all divisions. I have humbly served under more than 12 judges, gaining a passion for my job. I continuously strive to grow and stay up to date, by attending clerk's conferences, workshops, training classes, and webinars for continuing education.

In addition to my experience, I am certified with FDLE to receive background check results for name changes through FDLE, with confidentiality. I am the administrator over our E-Filing portal system. I am responsible for imputing in all of the docket codes, case types, fee codes, and fee schedules into the E-Portal system to get it up and running. This was a tremendous accomplishment as it allowed attorneys to begin filing pleadings through our E-Filing system. If elected, I will continue to maintain the E-Portal system.

In order to serve the people of Franklin County, I will utilize my experience to effectively communicate and maintain healthy partnerships. I have developed strong working relationships with the people of Franklin County and remained dedicated and loyal to my team at the clerk's office. I have developed working relationships with judges, lawyers, deputy clerks throughout the state of Florida and staff members of the Florida Clerk of Court Association. I have proven to be dependable, and trustworthy. My co-workers have expressed that they can rely on me if they need a helping hand.

I promise to give you, the public, that same comfort and open-door policy. I will use my leadership to provide a courteous and efficient service that you, the citizens of Franklin County deserve. If elected, I will continue to use my values to be trustworthy, efficient, and friendly, to serve the people of Franklin County to promote strong relationships, within the court system, and the office. I look forward to meeting you and allow you to get acquainted with who I am. Please consider voting for me Michele Maxwell on Nov. 3, 2020.

For further questions or concerns, I can be reached at 653-5118 or via email at michelemaxwell2020@yahoo.com.