News Smith promises a clerks office that meets the needs of a growing county
Jacqueline Smith is running for the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court, Prince William County.
She’s running in a Special Election against current House of Delegates member Jackson Miller.
Voters will head to the polls tomorrow, April 18 to choose the next Prince William County Clerk of the Circuit Court following the death of Michele McQuigg.
Smith and Miller received the same Project: Election survey. Smith’s responses are posted below the jump.
PL: What are the top three major issues the next Clerk of the Circuit Court will face?
Smith: Having interacted extensively with the Clerk’s office, I feel the biggest issues that need to be addressed are it’s responsiveness to the public, recruitment and retention of quality staff, and modernization of its IT infrastructure.
PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?
JS: In terms of the making the office more responsive to the public, there needs to be a fundamental shift in perspective, and an embrace of the idea that the office’s role is first and foremost one customer service to the community. Phone calls need to be answered by trained and knowledgeable staff. Request forms and other documents need to accessible both in office and through a user-friendly website. The clerk must hold their staff accountable, and be accountable to the public.
That lack of proper accountability, coupled with mismanagement and the heavy influence of partisan politics, has lead to a clerk’s office plagued by staffing issues. New talent hasn’t wanted to join a troubled office and quality people haven’t wanted to stay. A change in leadership is needed, one that will bring with it a renewed sense of purpose and that will grow the office to meet today’s needs.
As we all know, Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park are communities that have seen tremendous growth and change. Unfortunately, the clerk’s office has done little to keep up with that growth, and has an information technology infrastructure not built to manage current demands. The office needs to modernize its IT infrastructure to properly manage volume of work it now sees, and improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
PL: From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?
JS: Virginia law lays out more than 800 duties the Clerk must fulfill, many of which involve complex legal issues. Some of the more common functions of the Clerk include managing the jury system, issuing marriage licenses, probating wills and estates, and maintaining and protecting land records as well as Civil and Criminal Case records.
From my perspective, the clerk needs a strong legal background insure that of these processes are implemented properly and in full compliance with the law. The clerk is a public servant, and as such their office owes the community courteous and professional service. This is how I have run my law practice and small businesses for nearly 20 years and this is how the Clerk’s office must be run.
PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?
JS: I will bring with me my experience as a business owner and as a lawyer practicing in our community. As a business owner and director, I have earned experience hiring, firing and managing staff. I have extensive experience budgeting, including multiple multi-million dollar organizations and businesses. I also bring my experience dealing with people from all different walks of life. Especially in a community as diverse as ours, the clerk needs to be someone who treats people with respect and dignity regardless of what they look like, how they pray, who they love, or how they vote.
PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of the Clerk of Circuit Court Office? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?
JS: At some point, all members of our community with come into contact with the Clerk’s office, whether it be to obtain a marriage license, probate a will, file a deed or obtain a concealed carry permit. I think it is the Clerk’s responsibility to make these processes as transparent, accessible and as user friendly as possible.
The office needs a resource for citizens to get the information they need to be well-informed, that approaches its duties with a perspective of custom services. This is a perspective that is sadly lacking in our current clerk’s office, and something I would fundamentally change.
As extension of that perspective, the Clerk’s office must be a welcoming place to all members of our community.
For too long, career politicians have used what should be a non-partisan administrative position as a platform for their own political agendas. The clerk’s office is an inappropriate venue for partisan politics and only serves to alienate the public we serve. The public should be able to walk into the clerk’s office not knowing their political leanings and should leave the office the same way.
PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they effected you?
JS: Running for this office has been my first experience in public life. As someone without a professional political background, there was definitely a learning curve and some of the trial and error that comes with trying something new. These experiences teach you a lot and force you to step outside of what might be your normal comfort zone.
When you are first time candidate, there is a lot “figuring it out as you go”. This time around I definitely feel a clearer sense of what I need to be focused on, which is talking to the community about my vision for how the clerk’s office can better serve them, and I am better at avoiding all of the distractions that try to sidetrack you.
PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?
Smith: I am asking for people’s vote because I am truly focused on the work. I understand the important role our clerk of court plays and know I could do the job well. I am not running for this office because I think it’s best next step in a political career or because I want some title on my desk. I running because having seen first hand how the clerk’s office has been run in recent years, I know we can do better. We need to modernize the office to be response to today’s needs, to be more effective and responsive, and I want to help make that happens.
Jacqueline C. Smith
I’m running for: Clerk of the Circuit Court
As a practicing attorney I am an active member of the Prince William County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, where I volunteer my time and provide legal services to people in need who can not afford them. This volunteer services include work on Child Care and Protection cases and standing up for fraud victims. My experience in Pro Bono work is be part of what inspired me to run for Clerk of the Courts. After Hurricane Katrina I went to New Orleans, and one of the tasks I had there was helping homeowners navigate the process of applying for FEMA assistance. Because of flaws in local record keeping systems, many people who had their homes destroyed and their lives devastated had an extremely difficult time providing the legal documentation needed to get the help they desperately needed. It was an eye opening experience, and it showed me how something as seemly mundane as the record keeping done by local government can have a profound impact on real people’s lives, especial at their times of greatest need.
In addition to my professional life, I am active in our community in a number of volunteer roles. I serve on Prince William County Budget Committee for the Woodbridge District, and was appointed to the Prince William County Strategic Plan Task Force by the Board of County Supervisors. In these roles I focus on issues of public safety, supporting our emergency first responders, and improving services in our clerk’s office and courthouse.
I am also a proud member of the ACTS Board of Directors, Governance Committee and Strategic Planning Committee which provides and coordinates charitable assistance to members of our community who have hit hard times including food banks, fuel assistance, shelter and educational and vocational services.