retiring clerk Laurel Breuker in May of 2015.
As we stated when we presented these to the candidates, the queries come from a combination of input from our contributors as well as community members and are meant to provide readers with information on how each candidate envisions their role in this elected position. We believe the questions to be fair and of value to those who might still be undecided on their ballot choice.
So here are the responses from your candidates for Newaygo County Clerk:
Why do you want to be county clerk, and what are your qualifications for the job?
coaching both youth football and baseball, and from the years I spent in the United States Air Force. I also want to be County Clerk because I believe that Newaygo County deserves a clerk that will work closely with the Townships and Cities to be there for them when they are in need of support.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management with a concentration in Accounting. I have over ten years’ experience as an Accountant in which I’ve had employees that reported to me or looked to me for guidance. Along with the experience I’ve gained in leadership I’ve also taken multiple courses through the years on leadership as well as communication. I have spent the last four years as the Accountant for the Treasurer of Newaygo County so in that time I’ve developed a solid understanding of the software that is used in the county as I spend much time analyzing accounts. Also, I have a strong understanding of the Accounts Payable process that is used in the Clerk’s office and have experience in Accounts Payable at previous jobs.
with the staff and other County Clerks to learn the processes and procedures for the office’s operations, have attended all of the trainings available from the state relevant to the position, and have been certified by the State Bureau of Elections in Elections Management and also Election Inspector Training. My year of on-the-job experience has also given me the opportunity to oversee three county-wide elections, including the Presidential Primary Election held in March 2016.
I have also had a lot of professional experience that has prepared me well for this position. After college, I went to work in the music industry, and was most recently employed as Vice-President of Product Marketing for Conn-Selmer, a division of Steinway Musical Instruments, where I was responsible for managing numerous complex projects, an $11 million department budget, and a department of twelve full-time staff members.
After returning to Michigan in 2008, I began working in the non-profit sector, working in fund development for various charitable organizations. Before coming to work for Newaygo County, I was employed as Resource Development Coordinator for Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, where I was responsible for all of their fund development activities other than their retail sales.
What are the responsibilities of a county clerk and how does the clerk work with the other county officers, including the county commission?
operations of the office, but they effectively boil down into eight main roles:
Clerk of the Circuit Court, whose responsibilities include the creation and maintenance of Circuit Court records.
Chief Election Official of the County, responsible for the layout, printing, and tabulating ballots for all elections and training all elections workers.
Clerk of the County Board of Commissioners, responsible for keeping minutes and maintaining a record of all the Board’s actions, posting and advertising Board notices, and ensuring the actions of the Board are in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
Vital Records Registrar, responsible for keeping records of all births and deaths which occur in the County; maintain a registry of assumed names and co-partnerships; and issuing and filing marriage licenses, gun permits, and notary bonds.
Clerk of the Board of County Canvassers, which certifies the results of all elections within the County and performs all recount actions required.
Clerk of the County Election Commission, which is responsible for certifying the accuracy of election ballots and holding hearings to determine the clarity of the wording used on recall petitions.
Clerk of the County Tax Allocation Board, which reviews the budgets of various units and allocates to each one their portion of the tax revenues available.
Clerk of the County Plat Board, whose role is to ensure that all County agencies have reviewed and approved a plat before proceeding.
In addition, in Newaygo County all checks are prepared by the County Clerk to pay County bills and expense records are maintained by the County Clerk for all County departments.
Because of the diverse nature of these roles, my staff and I interact with almost every other department and governmental unit regularly in the course of business. As Clerk of the Board of Commissioners, we create the agenda and I attend every meeting and take minutes. We also manage the application and scheduling process for all Board appointments. We interact with all County offices in the processing of accounts payable. We also maintain close working relationships with all Township, City and Village Clerks, as we coordinate with them on the preparation and management of all elections, as well as other various activities.
The Clerk is in contact with other officers in the County on a daily basis. Some of the duties that the Clerk’s office performs intertwine with those of other offices such as Accounts Payable. The Clerk’s office also receives the vouchers that are needed from the offices of other County Officers so that the appropriate checks can be processed.
The Clerk's role with the Board of Commissioners is to record and maintain official minutes of each Board of Commissioners regular, special and executive session meetings. Also, post any notifications that the Commissioners need posted such as for an open board seat. The Clerk is also to attend every Board meeting in which a quorum is present.
What are the top issues or priorities for you if elected?
and if not put a plan in place to correct them.
I also plan to learn and be trained on all functions of office operations. In my current position I’m cross trained in all operations of the staff. I’m the “back up” if someone is sick, on vacation or if the office is shorthanded. I feel it is important that I have the ability to be able to perform all functions of the Clerk’s office and be able to support staff when employees are absent.
believe we can reduce the amount of time it takes to process payables significantly, allowing us to better serve our customers and vendors, as well as increase the customer service available at our counter with the time saved.
Begin offering notary services. Currently, the County notarizes only internal documents (CPLs applications, etc.). Beginning in 2017, I would like to expand this service and make it available to the public for a small fee.
Make our index of vital records searchable online. Although we have a database that contains many of our recent birth and death records, we have not been able to give details of these records to people over the phone to inquirers because State law restricts who has access to these documents. However, in recent years systems have been developed allowing searchers to enter a driver’s license or state ID number online to confirm their identity before submitting an inquiry for a record. By making this service available online, people can confirm that the record they seek is indeed held here in White Cloud without having to come to the Clerk’s office. They will then, ideally, be able to process a request for this record online and our office will be able to mail them a certified copy after processing payment.
Implement new election equipment. The Michigan Bureau of Elections is expected to certify new election equipment in late 2016 or 2017, with all voting precincts expected to purchase these within the year. There will likely be two or three vendors producing this new equipment, and the choice of which equipment will be used within a county will be made by each County Clerk. I have kept as informed as possible regarding the technical specifications of these machines, their performance in the State’s mock election trials, and, if elected, will make the decision of equipment with input from local Clerks based on the equipment’s ease of use, performance and affordability. Then, the challenge of training will begin. My staff and I will ensure that all precincts will be prepared to use this equipment without compromising the integrity of local election results.
Statutorily, the County Clerk is also the Clerk of the Circuit Court. In what way(s) do you plan to participate in the court functions?
However, the officers of the Court must have access to them to use as they see fit, often complicating the maintenance and control of these records.
Here in Newaygo County, my predecessor entered into a written agreement with the 27th Circuit Court, allowing the Court Administrator to oversee the daily operations of the Circuit Court Clerk staff, while the County Clerk maintained some control of the staffing of these positions, as well as all financial control of the department.
As this agreement has worked well for both parties since my appointment in May 2015, we have not seen it necessary to revise it at this time. Thus, I will continue to be included in any personnel activities, and will maintain control of the department budget. I also will continue to be responsible for the management of all bond accounts, ensuring that the County maintains them correctly and accurately until they are paid back or resolved.
at least once per year. I will also be accessible online for residents who elect to contact me in that way.
the office that gives callers the opportunity to speak directly to me, the County Clerk, or to speak to personnel best able to deal with their specific concerns, from vital records to election information. The office can also be reached by email through the County website where a link is provided.
The County website has also been structured to provide residents all of the information necessary for the vast majority of the functions of the County Clerk’s office. The relevant forms are available for download there as well. Before elections, the office posts a listing of all candidates and proposals to be considered on the website as well, and a link is provided to Election Magic, a third-party website where those who are curious can search election results for the county for the past 17 years. Also on the County website, County residents can find information regarding the activities of the Board of Commissioners and their committees, including scheduled meetings, the agendas for upcoming meetings, as well as minutes and recordings of past meetings.
A summary of the Board of Commissioners’ meeting minutes are also published in the Times-Indicator. Please note, however, that meeting minutes are not published until approved by the Board, usually at the following meeting, per Board policy. Meeting recordings, however, are posted on the website far more quickly. One of key updates provided by the Newaygo Clerk’s office in recent years has been the Governmental Directory. This directory provides contact information for all County, Township, City and Village elected positions, as well as other data, including local voting locations and upcoming election dates.
The 2016 directory with an improved format has been published and is also Newaygo County website at countyofnewaygo.com.
Providing access to public information is an integral part of the County-Clerk job. What improvements will you make to increase access to public records?
tempered by two other factors: the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the public records, and following the promulgated laws and statutes regarding public access to these records.
To illustrate this: one the most commonly requested public records at the County Clerk’s office are birth certificates. However, under State law birth records less than 100 years old can only be viewed by the parents or child named on the record. This makes common sense too because, if you think about it, if birth certificate copies were available to everyone, identity theft and false IDs would be much, much easier for criminals to achieve.
I believe that the online index search, which I mentioned above as one of my goals if elected, strikes a reasonable balance to all concerned. By allowing interested people to check online to see if the record they seek is on file in the County Clerk’s office in White Cloud, instead of having to come into the Clerk’s office to find out if it is or isn’t there, I hope to increase the convenience of the public’s access to these records. However, to request a copy of a record, an applicant would have to provide their driver’s license or other identification number to prove their right to the information, which maintains the security and integrity of the public record in question.
appropriate forms. I plan to have a public terminal setup so that any record that is “public” can be quickly and easily searched from this terminal.
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