Candidates for Franklin County Clerk of Court present platforms

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Editor’s note: The Franklin County Citizen Leader presented each local candidate with a set of general questions ahead of the June 9 primary. Stories written from the answers provided will be published over the next few weeks ahead of the election.

  • Tonya Bridges (left), Nick Fowler (center) and Heather Vaughn Hill (right) are all running to become Franklin County's next Clerk of Superior Court.
    Tonya Bridges (left), Nick Fowler (center) and Heather Vaughn Hill (right) are all running to become Franklin County's next Clerk of Superior Court.
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Editor’s note: The Franklin County Citizen Leader presented each local candidate with a set of general questions ahead of the June 9 primary. Stories written from the answers provided will be published over the next few weeks ahead of the election.

 

Bridges aims to help make county stronger

CARNESVILLE – Tonya Bridges sees the office of Franklin County Clerk of Superior Court as something more than just organizing court functions.

“Leadership is not about being the best, Leadership is about making everyone else better,” she said. “My goal if elected is to serve as a leader for the county as well as working to make the county stronger. My hope for the clerk’s office is to be one of the top ran clerk’s offices that strives to serve our citizens well.”

Bridges currently works in the Franklin County Magistrate Judge’s office.

“I have been a trusted, dependable, and hardworking employee for the Franklin County Magistrate Court for the past seven years,” she said. “The duties I have performed have included accounting for the office as well as filling, storing, and retrieving all civil and criminal records. I help in record keeping for the Judges during all civil and criminal hearings.  I also help in transmitting dispositions to the Georgia Crime Information Center, as well as helping with maintenance of all criminal warrants and search warrants issued in Franklin County. I assist in issuing subpoenas, summonses, and trial notices for the magistrate’s office. I believe that my extensive work experience in a court office within Franklin County has prepared me to take on the role of clerk of superior court.” 

Bridges has lived in the Bold Spring community for the last 23 years. She is a member of Bold Spring United Methodist Church, where she serves as church secretary for the Administrative Council and is in charge of the church children’s program. 

All three of her children – Faith, Colton and Farrah Bridges – are graduates of Franklin County High School and attended Emmanuel College.

If elected, Bridges said she wants to continue the service currently offered by the clerk’s office and make some changes that will benefit Franklin County’s citizens.

 “The Clerk of Superior Court and all employees are first and foremost public servants each and every day,” she said.  “Missy Holbrook has done a great job as our clerk for the past 28 years and I hope to continue providing the professionalism she has brought to our courthouse.  I will strive to make the clerk’s office efficient, courteous and, above all, professional.  One change I would like to see implemented would be to become a Passport Acceptance Agent.  I believe this is a service that needs to be offered to Franklin County citizens where they can apply for a U.S. passport in our county without having to travel to neighboring counties.”

The office comes with challenges, she said, most of which center around keeping costs down for taxpayers.

“I believe one of the challenges facing the clerk’s office right now is the implementation of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority electronic filing portal,” she said. “E-filing is becoming more widely used by attorney’s and individuals.  The challenge for a small county like Franklin, is the ability to efficiently and effectively use this system without adding more cost to the county. One of my objectives in becoming the Clerk of Superior Court is to keep spending at a minimum to save taxpayer dollars while still improving results.”

Bridges thanked voters for their support for her campaign and asked everyone to cast their ballot for her.

“In these uncertain times, I pray everyone is well and spending quality time with their families as I have loved spending time with my children Faith, Colton, and Farrah Bridges,” she said. “At this time my main concern is the health of your families as well as mine. Seeing as I won’t be able to visit with many of you due to social distancing, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email me at tonyabridges1@gmail.com. God is faithful to provide what we need to accomplish and the purpose He has set for us.”

 

Law experience a benefit for Fowler bid

CARNESVILLE – Nick Fowler has 22 years experience as a law enforcement officer.

He is now running for Franklin County Clerk of Court in order to supervise an office that is involved in a different aspect of the criminal justice system.

“I believe my experience and training would be beneficial in this office,” Fowler said in announcing his candidacy. “I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Franklin County.”

During his 22 years in law enforcement, Fowler has spent 18 of them as a supervisor and has 2,200 hours of training in management and supervision.

The son of Mary Fowler of Hunters Creek and the late Eddy Fowler, the candidate is a native of Franklin County.

Fowler attended Carnesville Elementary School, Franklin County Middle School and graduated from Franklin County High School in 1988.

After working with his father for about five years, Fowler graduated from the Georgia Corrections Academy and became a correctional officer in 1993.

In 1996, he accepted a position with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

He graduated from the Northeast Georgia Police Academy in 1998 and went on patrol in Jackson County.

In 2000, he began work with the Lavonia Police Department. During his tenure, he held the rank of patrolman, corporal and sergeant.

Fowler joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy in 2005.

He was promoted to lieutenant in his first year of employment and held that rank for 10 years before being promoted to patrol captain in 2015.

Fowler is married to Margaret Ann Fowler.

The biggest challenge facing the clerk’s office is a lack of space for storing records and office space. That is an issue he plans to work on.

“It will take the cooperation of the board of commissioners to solve this,” he said.

Fowler also said he would like to see the pay for jury duty increase from $35 per day to $50 per day.

 

Deputy clerk Hill ‘most qualified’ for position

ROYSTON – Heather Vaughn Hill’s background, education and experience in the Franklin County Clerk of Courts office makes her “the most qualified candidate for the position,” she says.

Hill is currently serving as a deputy clerk for long-time Clerk of Court Missy Holbrook.

“If elected I will bring many different attributes to this position,” Hill said. “As a former athlete, coach, teacher and now as a deputy clerk I have been taught to wear many different hats. These hats have developed into amazing qualities and qualifications. Qualities like motivation, sincerity, flexibility, honesty, organization, dependability, communication, teamwork, leadership skills, and problem solving have been instilled in me throughout these past experiences. I am currently using these qualities as a deputy clerk and I will continue to use them as your Clerk if elected.” 

Hill has a bachelor’s degree in education from Emmanuel College

“I already work in the Superior Clerk’s office; therefore, I have experienced the ‘flow’ of the office,” she said. “I have experienced the high pressure situations in the Superior Court Room while there were 200-plus defendants with their families and lawyers.” 

Being in the office has given her the opportunity to have some experience with grand jury/traverse jury, real estate, criminal/civil/juvenile matters, TPO/family violence orders, Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC), ICON computer system, criminal/ civil calendars and “much more.”

Hill said that the office is currently running smoothly.

“The chemistry inside the office is fantastic,” she said. “The people that enter the clerk’s office constantly leave with a smile.”

The biggest challenge facing the office is to inform the public about the clerk’s duties and responsibilities.

“As far as the office goes, everything we do is mandated by law. We have to be careful that we are abiding by the state laws while making all deadlines,” Hill said. “Sometimes it looks like we might be just staring at the computer at 8 a.m., when in fact we are completing five different emails from five different people during two phone calls from two different lawyers’ offices – one for civil and one for criminal, all while completing a calendar for a criminal calendar call that has more than 200 defendants on it.”

The clerk’s office is much more than just a records office, the candidate said. 

“To us we are the ‘keepers’ of the county,” she said. “If we do not do our jobs correctly, then we will not only fail ourselves, we will fail the county. The clerk’s office has the responsibility of transmitting different cases. This means that if someone has a serious crime of child molestation and it doesn’t get transmitted correctly, then he/she could be driving our children to school on a bus. On the other side of that, if someone was accused of trafficking drugs and they take a plea or they are found guilty on a lesser charge, he/she does not need trafficking on their criminal history. If this is transmitted incorrectly, this will not be removed from his/her criminal history and he/she will not be able find employment when a background check is completed.”

Hill said she wants to address the challenge by making the public aware of all the office does and why, “almost like having a classroom with a newsletter.

“If there is something new going on in the office, we could update everyone by adding a website, social media, newspaper, or the radio,” she said.

While Hill said change can make people “a little uncomfortable,” getting more of the office’s information available to the public through a “user-friendly” program would be a change she is for, she said.

The clerk’s office does a good job keeping people updated by phone, email, letters and through www.franklinclerkofcourt.com, a program that includes a lot of information for the public.

“To the clerk’s office, the website is easy because we use it often if not every day; however, to the public it seems to be more challenging,” she said. “This is evident due to the number of call-in questions. Let’s face it, technology is growing very fast, sometimes faster than we as people would like to accept and that makes us very uncomfortable. I would like to take that little bit of stress away by letting our information, within the state laws, become more available and user friendly to the public. For example, by incorporating more information about our office in the public literature/radio, making a Facebook page with jury/grand jury detailed information from the clerk’s office with updated changes when necessary for jurors, a how to guide attached to the clerk’s office website, our work program becoming more web based and more of our real estate (deeds/plats/books) online. This will help our office, the public, and the county with revenue in the long run by cutting down traffic on the roads and inside the courthouse, filing space and printing/paper cost. This has become more apparent due to our current COVID-19 situation.”

Hill said she wants voters to know she is a hard worker who will do everything in her power to get the job done.

“I have a never-quit mentality and I am willing to push myself to the fullest,” she said. “I will work hard as your next clerk of Superior Court. If there is an uncertainty, I will not stop until I find an answer. I will be honored to serve you and this county and I am humbly asking for your vote on June 9, 2020.”

Hill said that voters can get more information on her or contact her with questions, concerns or support on her website, www.heathervaughnhillforclerkofcourt.com; by email at heatherhillforclerkofcourt@gmail.com; on Facebook at heathervaughnhillfcclerkofcourt; and by phone at 706-498-2997.