This story is about the May 2 Democratic race for all four of the Davidson County clerk jobs. Still reading?
Yeah, who cares? Here’s why you should: the four separate administrative posts control over 10 percent of Metro’s budget and represent a lucrative government revenue stream. Every Nashvillian who renews their car tags, has a hellian child who burns up someone’s yard or—God forbid—gets divorced will have contact with the county, juvenile, criminal or circuit court clerk offices.
These clerk jobs are low profile, reasonably well compensated—they all make in the low $100,000’s—and non-political. It’s irrelevant weather the criminal court clerk is pro-choice or anti-immigration. What matters in these jobs is the ability to manage a budget, organize resources and keep a public that hates waiting in line happy.
These factors make it a tough job to campaign for. Unless you’ve done the job before, how can you prove that you’re a good manager? Without hot-button issues, what is there for the candidates to debate?
Even among those candidates who have worked in some capacity in administering county government, the campaign has essentially been reduced to personal attacks, wild promises and candidates insisting, with saccharine persistence, how nice they are.
Witness Vic Lineweaver, who’s running to keep his seat as Juvenile Court clerk. In a recent TV spot, he holds hands with a circle of children in the park. The beatific grin on his face seems downright lecherous as he and the children try to slap each others palms in what we can only assume is some kind of weird Juvenile Court clerk ritual. Or maybe the children are delinquents and this is their punishment. Either way, weird.
The self-congratulation train rolls on with Saletta Holloway, a former Metro Council member running for county clerk. She has videos of supporters saying how much they like her as a person, although some of them seem unsure as to what job she’s running for.
“I think that Seletta Holloway is the best candidate for Davidson…(here the supporter—a young blonde woman—stutters a bit and looks off camera before continuing slowly)…county clerk.”
Holloway gets high marks, however, for the soundtrack to the promo, which was written by the candidate and features a Mary J. Blige sound-alike cooing…
dedicated servant loyal toooo
committed to serving you…”
Less soulful but just as ambitious is Butch Garrett, who’s also running for the county clerk job being vacated by Bill Covington. As a candidate, he emphasizes his years of experience as a high school coach. He says that morale in the clerk’s office could “stand a boost. I think a coach is just the person to do that. I’m an expert at raising morale…. I know how to place the right players in the right positions to get the job done.”
Beyond the sports metaphors, Garrett doesn’t have much of a creative vision for the office. He doesn’t know the office’s budget or what the job pays. As for policies, he promised to “be accessible” and “visible.”
“It’s not rocket science,” he says. “It’s dealing with people.”
As for personal attacks, these races have a few targets, including David Torrence, the reigning criminal court clerk. His opponent, Sherry Stoner Jones, claims that he’s never attending to the business of the court because “he’s out playing golf every day that it’s nice.”
Torrence, who has received strong reviews from colleagues for his work, calls the charge “absolute nonsense.”
None of this is to say that this is a campaign entirely bereft of promised new initiatives in clerkery.
John Arriola, a political veteran who spent 12 years as a state representative, has a raft of ideas for the direction of the county clerk’s office should he win that election May 2.
He wants the office to begin licensing and regulating notarios, the illegal lawyers who prey on newly arrived Hispanics. He also imagines a world in which we could access the county clerk’s office through kiosks at Kroger, K-mart “or even Wall Mart.” Arriola’s fantasyland may also include marshmallow rivers, cotton candy clouds and the ability to get your license renewal at the same place you get your car emissions tested.
Steve McClure, who has spent 13 years in the county clerk’s office as the No. 2 in the department and is now making a bid for the top spot, also has a few hallucinations, er, suggestions, for the clerk’s office. If elected, he says that he’ll drive to senior centers, find the residents there who own cars, get their registration information, take it back to the clerk’s office and register their cars for them. Oh, and he’s going to extend the clerk’s office hours so that its open 10 to 12 hours a day.
But, can he leap tall buildings in a single bound?