The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 27, 2014

Election Q&A: Sessions, Staples in race for District Clerk spot

Staff Reports
Palestine Herald-Press


NAME: W. Sue Sessions

AGE: 58

OCCUPATION: Sergeant at Anderson County Sheriff’s Office

EDUCATION: Master Peace Officer License; over 5,000 hours of Continuing Education


NAME: Janice Staples

AGE: 64

OCCUPATION: Anderson County District Clerk

EDUCATION: H&R Block Income Tax School, 2 years; three criminal law courses at TVCC; over 440 hours of continuing education.


Q: What are your qualifications for this job?


I have been in law enforcement for almost 40 years. Of these years, I’ve spent the last 17 years working hand in hand with the district clerk’s office. I am currently the supervisor over warrants, civil, writs, bailiffs, courthouse security, and sex offender registration. The work that is started in the district clerk’s office whether it is grand jury to warrants, civil citations to writs is sent to my office for service. I work with the process from start to end. I am often asked to solve problems that occur with the paperwork and I am happy to do so.


I have five years of experience under district clerk, Maxine Barnette. I was appointed chief deputy by Mrs. Barnette. Mrs. Barnette asked me to run for the position because she knew that I had the potential and qualifications to be a good district clerk. I have over 440 hours of continuing legal education. I am now in my 12th year as district clerk. I believe that the number of years and the education and training I have received clearly make me the best person for the job. Seventeen years of experience speaks for itself.


Q: What do you believe are the most critical issues facing the District Clerk’s Office?


The first problem is bringing the office back to public access. The pulling of the public access computer by Ms. Staples was blamed on the sheriff’s office and our IT Department. I believe that after four years it is time to stop blaming and start fixing the problem. The other area of concern is the Attorney General billing. This started in September 2010 and did not get any attention until people started complaining about the lost revenue. It took the office hiring a part-time employee and working on it till January of this year to get them caught up.


E-filing (electronically filing) is the most critical issue. The Texas Supreme Court has mandated that all counties in the state of Texas begin e-filing certain documents. All attorneys will be required to e-file all civil and family documents. E-filing is mandated to start in Anderson County on July 1, 2015. There will be costs for this that the county must bear and every employee will have to go through training to use the system. The district clerk’s office in conjunction with the Anderson County Legal Professional’s Association will be offering e-filing training this year for any attorney’s secretaries that want/need it.


Q: What changes/improvements would you make if elected/re-elected for the next term?


First, I strongly believe that this is a public service office and should be open to the public between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The next change would be faster and friendlier service at the counter. No more assigned days, everyone works the counter every day. Third, would be to make sure that everyone is crossed trained between all the desks. There should never be a time that something cannot get done because someone is not there and no one else is trained on it. And lastly is getting everyone trained and ready for the new E-file law.


E-filing will bring changes. We will also be faced with the decision of whether or not to make the office paperless. This will be a decision that all county offices will have to make because that will mean that everyone will have to operate a computer to view documents. If that does happen, we will be looking at saving money on paper, file folders, file labels, envelopes, postage and storage. Hopefully with the money we can save, we will have more money to restore historical records in the district clerk’s office.


Q: How would you keep the District Clerk’s office up to date with the ever-changing technology and legislation?


When you work in the legal field, there is a constant need to keep on top of the ever-changing state and federal laws. The only way to do this is with continuing education and training. I believe it is the district clerk's responsibility to keep on top of this and to make sure her staff is well educated and trained.


Education, education, education is the key. Mrs. Barnette advised me to get all the education that I can. I have found that to be the best advice I have ever received. It is because of that education that I am able to come back to my office and train my staff so they can do the best job possible. Being active in the Texas Association of County and District Clerks’ Association and serving on their legislative committee has given me great insight into what to expect in the future in the legal field and the field of technology.