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October 26, 2012

Payne County clerk candidates discuss their goals, qualifications

STILLWATER, Okla. — The campaign is stretching into its final days. Thursday, the candidates for Payne County clerk discussed their qualifications and plans in a debate at the Frontier Rotary Club meeting.

Unlike the recent presidential and vice presidential debates, the county clerk candidates — Republican Glenna Craig and Democrat Linda Hatfield, the incumbent, didn’t talk past their time limit or interrupt their opponent.

And moderator Cristy Morrison, unlike her national counterparts, kept the debate on track and moving forward.

Craig, 47, is chief deputy assessor for Payne County. She has worked in county government for 24 years and served as secretary of the Payne County Election Board.

Hatfield, 58, has worked in the county clerk’s office for 26 years. She has been county clerk since fall 2007.

The candidates reviewed their backgrounds during opening remarks and as answers to one of the questions.

Here are their answers to some of the questions posed to them at the Rotary meeting.

What is the single most important skill that you will bring to the county clerk’s office?

Hatfield: “Experience. It has been a pleasure for me to work in that office for 26 years. I have worked in several areas. I have worked in the real estate, which anyone involved in real estate knows how detailed that can be. Our records go to the assessor’s office, which, in turn, go to the treasurer’s office. If you don’t have them right from the get go, it just dominoes all the way down. Secondly, I have worked in the purchasing end of the office. I am familiar with bidding processes as well as the actually purchasing end. I have helped pay those bills as well as take care of the employee’s needs — directing them to the right departments especially when they get ready to retire. ...”

Craig: “If I had to pick a single skill, organization but I’d like to not stop at just that. I have a great organizational skill. I have good knowledge skill. I do have experience in county government as well. ... I think another skill I have is one of communication and one of mediation. I think I have proven I get along with people very well. I can lead people very well and I have a way of getting along with other leaders and officials to get the end result to be for the county, for the citizens and what we need in county government.”

What is the biggest challenge facing the county clerk’s office and what is your proposed solution?

Craig: “The biggest challenge, I think, is continuing to keep things online. I would like to see the things that are online, Linda said you have to be a Payne County resident — I would like to see that statewide free to anybody who would like to dial into the system. I think while doing that you need to maintain the security of your landowners and make sure your Social Securities are not there. We need to get all the records online. We need to get them available to anyone and we need to try to do that for free. Customer service is also a part of that. ... Looking at our system from top to bottom. How are things done? How can we run them better? How can they be more efficient? We need to be looking into the phone systems, the software programs, the things that we offer to the public. The public terminals — are they being friendly? Can they find the information they need quickly. These are the things that when I walk in I want to try to do. I want to try to make sure there is transparency and integrity in everything we do. ... You should see when your money is being spent, how your money is being spent and where it is being spent.”

Hatfield: “The biggest challenge we have got right now — I am sure you all are aware of all the oil and gas activity that is going on in the county — is to keep those records safe — without them being destroyed. Quite frankly, a lot of those people are temporary people and they really don’t care. They are not their records. We watch those very diligently. As far as my online records, I have those records on my computer. I could release them right now to the public, but unless the data is there for people to search then it is moot point. The Social Security numbers are redacted. You can’t see those when you are searching a document online. We do not have the authority, however, to remove them from the documents.”

What are the two top priorities for your first 100 days in office?

Hatfield: “Since it wouldn’t be my first 100 days in office, I want to continue customer service. It is a very vital role in our office. I want to continue to assist those people that come in to search those records. It is very important to me to have the staff that is knowledgeable. And as I said, we are complimented on a daily basis. It’s also important to me to apply the data to all the images we have so we can get more documents online for the citizens to be able to search those records from their home or office.”

Craig: “The top priorities of that office are always going to be customer service. Are we working for the customers? Are we working for the public? Do those citizens know what our office offers? I would like to start a program that educates people about that office. The second thing I want to do is look at that office top to bottom. Are we being efficient? Are we running things the best way that they can be run? Are we using taxpayer’s money fiscally efficient? Then I want to look at staff training, positions. How things are done? What we can do to help people who walk into our office? Those are the things from top to bottom that I want to do.”

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