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3 Republicans running for clerk’s office

Three Republicans have longtime Rowan County Clerk of Superior Court Jeff Barger in their crosshairs.

First, they must do battle among themselves prior to May 6 before challenging the Democrat incumbent in November.

Barger has served in the position for about 16 years.

The GOP trio includes a self-employed contractor, former deputy and a patient services coordinator with Novant Health Faith Internal Medicine.

Here’s a look at who is running:

Working as a self-employed contractor for years, Jason Foster said he can identify with the young and old as well as sit down and have a conversation with any person he meets.

“One thing I believe distinguishes me from the other two candidates is that I have experience supervising people,” Foster said. “It is my responsibility to oversee the day-to-day operations of the jobs. We may have 30 subcontractors out there at once. I’m where the buck stops.”

Foster said his family always has interacted with the public and focused on keeping “a happy customer,” ideals upon which the family members’ well-being and welfare depended.

One of the main issues facing the Rowan County Clerk of Superior Court office is a “public relations” problem, Foster said.

“This is an issue I feel is very important,” Foster said.

When the county’s population grows, the clerk’s office needs a leader who can efficiently accommodate that growth, Foster said.

“What is new today will be obsolete tomorrow. In the not-so-distant future, there will be policies implemented in the state that will require changes in that office,” Foster said. “Along with the population growth, large issues will come about in Rowan County.”

An office leader needs to be someone who is familiar with overseeing and working with people to implement those changes, Foster said, and a leader is only as good as the people he or she is trying to lead.

“It is everyone’s office duty to accept their job description and help out even if they are not supposed to be on that thing. They pick up the slack and help those people out,” Foster said. “I know the workload is pretty heavy, but there always is room for gains in efficiency at every level. Policy procedures get tweaked a little bit, and the end result is essentially helping the customer.”

As a former Rowan County deputy, Joel Johnson said he is the only candidate who can bring experience from working in the justice system to the race.

“The role of the clerk of court requires knowledge of the justice system and is not something to be taken lightly,” Johnson said.

Johnson said volunteer roles he has undertaken over the years further qualify him for the office.

“I was appointed by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to serve as a commissioner for the Rowan County Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Finance Authority. I am a charter member and trustee of Fraternal Order of Police Salisbury-Rowan Lodge No. 87,” Johnson said.

There are several areas for improvement in the clerk of court office, Johnson said.

“The first is that of creating a citizen liaison who can interact with citizens on a more personal level. This will include answering questions and guiding them through the filing process,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he wants to ensure the victims of domestic violence are offered a helping hand when they are filing for protection orders.

“During my law enforcement career, I referred to the clerk of court’s office people who were assaulted by their significant other,” Johnson said. “They described the process as very emotional and difficult, and many said they were offered little or no help aside from being handed a form to fill out.”

That situation needs to change, Johnson said, and people who have been battered and abused should be treated with care and tenderness.

“I do not say this to be negative of our current clerk or his staff,” Johnson said. “I simply see it as an area that could be improved.”

Johnson said he would propose to have the office’s hours extended so that citizens are not forced to take time off work to handle their affairs.

One of Johnson’s goals is to seek cooperation from the sheriff to have a deputy assigned to the rotation to maintain the security of the courthouse during extended hours.

The deputy could be special, reserve or part-time, Johnson said.

“I also would like to pursue a ‘third-shift’ clerk who could be available to meet with citizens in the lobby of the magistrate office or via telephone,” Johnson said.

Efficiency also is crucial in the clerk of court’s office, Johnson said, and filings and documents should be examined by the clerk or his assistants as quickly as possible “thereby allowing the sheriff’s civil deputies to perform the duties of their office in a timely manner.”

The various gears of the justice system need to work together to accomplish the goal of serving the public, Johnson said, and turnaround should occur with minimal delay — and no unnecessary delay.

Sandy Yon has extensive experience working in a fast-paced hospital environment, and now she is looking to put her skills to use at the helm of the clerk’s office.

The only female candidate running in the race, Yon said she has a great amount of experience in the private sector dealing with people from all walks of life after having been in the medical field for many years.

“I have overseen offices in the past, and therefore have the necessary people skills and personal integrity to provide the proper leadership to such an important office,” Yon said.

While Yon said she believes there always is room for improvement, she declined making any “premature comments or statements about improvements” to the clerk’s office.

Yon’s plan is to objectively evaluate the process and workflow through the office to see where improvements could be made.

“It would be my goal to create a work environment that is not only professional, but also an enjoyable place to work,” Yon said.

The clerk’s office has to ensure the accuracy and safekeeping of all court records along with receiving payments for court fees and fines, Yon said.

As clerk of court, Yon said she will ensure the public’s trust in the county’s court system remains above reproach by holding each staff member accountable to the “highest standards of personal and professional conduct.”

“The clerk’s office is responsible for overseeing several other functions of our civil law. These include cases involving incompetency hearings, guardianships, adoptions, probate wills and foreclosures,” Yon said. “I will ensure that all of these cases are handled professionally and without any undue bias apart from the law.”

Earning and keeping the public’s trust is the most significant role the clerk’s office plays in the local community, she said.

“Every one of our citizens should be able to leave the clerk’s office knowing that their affairs were handled courteously and professionally,” Yon said.

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