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1.3 million pages later, Michele McQuigg seeks 2nd term as Prince William Clerk of the Circuit Court

Michele McQuigg calls herself an activist turned politician.

In addition to spending more than 20 years in public life serving the residents of Prince William County, she’s also belonged to just about any civic or community organization that had an open membership policy.

McQuigg is running for another eight-year term as Prince William County’s Clerk of the Circuit Court. It’s a lesser-known position, one that doesn’t usually attract headlines – unless your Michelle McQuigg.

Last year, McQuigg placed her name on a lawsuit against Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring who wanted to bypass a state referendum on gay marriage and allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. One of McQuigg’s jobs as Clerk of the Circuit Court is to issue those licenses.

McQuigg doesn’t support gay marriage, but she said the overriding reason for her signing her name to that lawsuit was because she felt the state, and federal constitutions were being usurped by the Attorney General. Today, gay couples may file for marriage licenses in Virginia.

Outside the marriage debate, McQuigg has worked to improve many of the functions of the courthouse. She’s scanned 1.3 million pages of case pleadings and posted them online so anyone who visits the courthouse may view them electronically. Through a paid subscription service, she’s made them available to attorneys who view the pleadings at their offices and file their paperwork remotely saving them time and money, said McQuigg.

The Republican also has a soft spot for history, as she’s read minutes of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors dating back to the late 1800s. Just like court pleadings, she, and a group of volunteers, worked to put many of these historical pages showcasing the county’s history, dating back to when Prince William County was formed in 1731, online for all to see.

It’s an effort you can’t put a price tag on, she said.

“It’s valueless. It’s history. A lot of things have been lost during the civil war. Some of our records are probably in private hands,” said McQuigg.

Many records were stolen from courthouses throughout the state following the Union victory in 1865.

When looking at he old documents, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“They had a lot of the same issues — they had transportation problems, and they did a lot of their own social services, so it’s very interesting to see the similar problems,” said McQuigg.

The divorced mother of two began her political career in 1983 when she first ran for Prince William Clerk of the Circuit Court. She lost, but it taught her the importance of knocking on doors, and of the importance of not wearing high-heeled shoes during the process.

Later, she won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and served the people of the 51st District, a seat now held by Richard Anderson, for 10 years. She went on to serve as the Occoquan District representative on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors from 1992 to 1996.

She’s defending the seat she’s held since 2007 from another Republican, commercial developer Austin Haynes, who sits in the At-large seat on the Prince William County Planning Commission.

Since Haynes is also a Republican, she’s not sure why he would run against her.

It’s a good salary,” said McQuigg, as a possible motivator for anyone who would want the job. “But money has never been a motivator for me. I went from a Board of Supervisor to with a salary of $30,000 to the House of Delegates to a salary that’s under $18,000, down from a four-year term to a two year term, so money doesn’t motivate me. Community service does.”

The salary is $154,826 per year. The Clerk of the Circuit Court manages a $4 million budget and 46 full-time staff. The clerk’s mission over the next few years is to implement new technology enhancements that make access to public records easier.

McQuigg will face Haynes in a Primary Election in June. She has no plans to run as an independent candidate if she doesn’t win the Republican Party nomination.

“First of all, I’m going to win,” she said.

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