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One thing is certain in next month’s primary race for Washington County Clerk; the happiness of local residents with the services provided by the position is at the top of each candidate’s list of objectives.
Glenn Black has been Washington county’s clerk since Bubba Robinson retired from the position prior to the 2002 election, and he hopes his track record speaks for itself as he seeks a fourth term.
“I think I’ve provided good service,” he said. “Like coming into any new job, there’s more to it than you really think. Most people think all we do is license plates, but that’s a small part of our job, actually.”
Black, who spent 34 years as a teacher before running for office, is particularly proud of the fact that he’s been able to return more than $500,000 in excess fees to be put back into the county’s budget over the last seven years. He acknowledged that many of the visitors to the county clerk’s office are completing the unenviable task of paying taxes, therefore keeping a positive attitude is a must.
“Friendly and courteous service is the main thing,” Black said. “Most people do not like to pay taxes, and I happen to be one of the collectors, but I have to pay them, too, and that’s part of it. That’s the biggest thing (about the position), and making sure taxes are divided out where they’re supposed to be.”
Billy Abell, who first threw his hat into the ring for the office of county clerk in 2002, agreed that dealing with people is the main responsibility of the job. He said his time as a senior technical representative with SimplexGrinnell has prepared him for that role.
“I believe the county clerk’s office is a service provider,” he said. “I’ve worked for a service company for 35 years where, if we didn’t provide the best service available, the customer was going elsewhere. It’s my responsibility to keep our customers, so I understand service very well.
“Most of what people go to the clerk’s office for, they don’t want to go do it. It’s a job they’ve got to get done,” Abell added. “My goal would be that every person that walks out the door does so with a better feeling than when they walked in.”
Abell said he has a few ideas that he’d like to implement should he win May’s election, and they center around making the office more efficient and getting more people involved. He noted seeing other counties with interactive clerk websites that allow residents to fill out a marriage license, look through deeds, find out motor vehicle information and more.
“We hear a lot that young people aren’t involved, but sometimes we need to go to where they are to bring them in,” he said. “I think a very progressive website would do that.”
Among Abell’s other ideas is one to take advantage of courthouse space that was freed up when the new judicial center was built. He suggested an area where a bookkeeper or other employee could go for a few hours to complete some of their more demanding workload.
“The work can be very involving, and to all be in one open office is extremely distracting to do a complicated task,” he said. “Also, there’s a perception that, ‘there’s someone sitting in the corner that’s not waiting on me.’”
For Black, it’s mostly about continuing the groundwork that he’s established over the last 12 years, though he’s quick to point out that he’s had plenty of help.
“I’ve got three girls who just do a great job,” he said. “They’re there to help anyone coming in, and if they need to get a hold of Frankfort to get answers, they can do that, too.”
Black said he’s built a comfort level with the community in his time as county clerk, but regardless of the outcome, he hopes to see voters show their support at this year’s primary and general elections.
“I think people have gotten to know me throughout the county, and I try to provide friendly service for everybody who comes in,” Black said. “I would like to see a larger turnout in the voting because the percentage is pretty low. I’d like for them to vote for me, but if not, I still hope they voice their opinion.”
Black is a native of Washington County and has been married to his wife, Nancy, for 47 years. They have two sons and two grandchildren.
Abell is a native of Washington County and has been married to Rose Marie (Nalley) of Fredericktown for 34 years. They have two daughters and one granddaughter. Abell is the son of Lillian Kidwell of Washington County and the late Cyril Abell.