Each of the three candidates, whose names are on the Nov. 3 ballot for Montgomery County circuit court clerk, bring diverse and unique backgrounds and experiences to the table that each claim would make them the best choice for the role.
Chelsea Camp, Wendy Davis and Tracy Provo Knight are all vying to fill the unexpired term of Cheryl Castle, who retired in August halfway through her four-year term.
The Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Clarksville joined forces to hold a political forum last month where each candidate spoke regarding their platforms.
The circuit court clerk’s office is comprised of seven primary divisions, including the administration, and civil, criminal, traffic, records and archives, juvenile and jury administration.
There are 59 full-time employees in the office.
The circuit court clerk’s office is responsible for managing the legal business, public communications and financial operations of the courts in Montgomery County.
On background and experience
Camp was born in Baltimore and lived in Clarksville since 1995.
She’s a graduate of Kenwood High School and attended Austin Peay State University.
Camp is a decorated military veteran who served for nine years – first in the logistics fields and then as a behavioral health technician.
Davis moved to Clarksville in 1979 when her father was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and has called Clarksville home since.
She has worked in the circuit court clerk’s office for 24 years and served as the office’s chief deputy since 2002.
In August, Davis was sworn in as the interim court clerk to fill Castle’s seat until the election.
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Knight is a graduate of Clarksville Academy and received a bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University.
In addition to a law degree, Knight holds an master’s degree in business administration in management and taught at the college level as an adjunct professor for the past 21 years.
On leadership style
During the political forum, Democratic nominee Camp, who serves as the director of development for Butterfly Moments, a women’s recovery center in Clarksville, said if elected as circuit court clerk, she would present a leadership style that would be adaptable.
“It’s important in leadership to do the beginning of that word, which is lead,” Camp said. “[I would] be well informed on issues, as well as personnel, knowing the people in the office. Also, being educated [is important], so that any level of the staff that needs more information or needs reinforcement or just support, that I would be the one they would come to. Also, being personable, so there are no barriers between the communication.”
Knight, who is running as an independent and is an attorney at Batson Nolan, said her leadership style would be a coaching approach instead of the autocratic style, which is the way she feels the way the circuit court clerk’s office is currently run.
“I want the employees of the office to do the best they can,” Knight said. “I want them to feel like they’ve done a good job. I want them to be happy. I want them to be trained. I want them to feel like they have a purpose and a place not only in the office, but also in this community. I think the only way to do that is to have a coaching leader style.”
Knight said the current style in the office is only effective when it has unskilled labor.
“That’s not what we have in the circuit court clerk’s office,” Knight said. “I think they need a change.”
Davis, the Republican nominee, who serves as the interim circuit court clerk, defended her leadership style by saying she, too, appreciates the coaching style.
Davis said she likes to educate the supervisors about their job responsibilities and what she expects from them and what they should expect from their employees.
“Working with that many people sometimes can be difficult,” Davis said. “You’re not going to make everybody happy on the same day. It’s not going to happen. But we make sure they feel like they get that pat on the back, and they know that they’re important to us at all times.”
Davis said it’s important to her the employees know when they’re doing a good job, and if they are not, it’s important they know what they’re doing wrong so they can excel.
On goals, changes for the office
In her closing remarks, Knight described the circuit court clerk’s office today as “dysfunctional.”
“The employees don’t seem happy with their jobs,” Knight said. “It’s evident with the high turnover rate that is seen in the office.”
Knight said she felt there is lack of training within the office and a “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality that she said exists in the office in not effectively serving Montgomery County.
Camp said she is not perfect and does not expect perfection, but she felt improvements need to be made in the circuit court clerk’s office.
“I do expect efficiency and transparency and accessibility,” Camp said. “I do not believe we currently have that, and I want to give that.”
Camp said once her experience serving in the military was completed, she made it her business to serve the community, which helped her understand the need to knock down barriers and lead with integrity.
Davis emphasized her experience in serving in the circuit court clerk’s office for 24 years and enjoys helping to teach anyone who comes into the office by providing them assistance.
“It’s my goal to make sure they’re happy when they leave, and I want all the employees to feel the same way,” Davis said. “We have times where we might have an issue or two, but we work through those, and we make sure that the communication with everyone that comes to our court is the best it can be and work to make sure it is better and is transparent.”
In general, Davis said people aren’t comfortable coming into the courthouse, but she felt it’s important to treat everyone equally, fairly and with a smile.
Early voting begins next week
Early voting for the Nov. 3 election begins Oct. 14 and will continue through Oct. 29 at the Montgomery County Election Commission on Pageant Lane in Clarksville.
For more information, visit the Montgomery County Elections Commission at mcgtn.org/election.