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The four Republican candidates for Oldham circuit court clerk all have one thing in common – a lengthy career in various public service roles.
In recent weeks, the candidates, Steve Greenwell, Steve Kaelin, Suzette Kimbell and Rick Rash, have participated in two candidate forums in order to meet voters.
Some of the most interested voters are those who currently work in the Oldham County courthouse.
During a candidate forum May 9 at the South Oldham Fire Department, much of the audience included current and retired courthouse staffers.
The current circuit court clerk, Lynn Mason, will retire at the end of the year.
She took office in 1994.
Each Kentucky county has a circuit court clerk that manages the records of the circuit and district courts.
The clerk also issues driver’s licenses, non-driver identification cards and oversees other court-related matters.
The Oldham County Circuit Court Clerk’s office is staffed with 17 people.
Some questions during the forum May 9 focused on leadership and management of the circuit clerk’s office.
Greenwell emphasizes his three terms as a magistrate, his life-long residency in Oldham County and his work ethic.
In a typical week, he works 25 hours driving a bus for Oldham County Schools and works 35 hours farming, in addition to his duties as magistrate.
He has been a farmer for 36 years, managing 10 people. Greenwell said he knows how to work peoples’ strengths and place them in roles where they will excel.
Greenwell is currently in his 10th year as District 4 magistrate on Oldham County Fiscal Court and has never missed a meeting. Fiscal court meets twice a month.
Kaelin, a retired police officer, said his career has centered on the court and criminal justice systems. He said to offset low pay for employees in the circuit court clerk’s office, the circuit clerk must show he or she is the hardest working person in the building.
Pay for employees in the clerk’s office is designated by the state administrative office of the courts.
Kaelin said he has the experience and determination to provide efficiency and customer service. As a police sergeant, he learned the importance of gaining the respect of his team and building an open, honest atmosphere.
Kimbell said she has experience as a deputy clerk and family court employee – jobs she took after owning her own business and working as a substitute teacher.
She said leading the clerk’s office is about respect.
Being courteous and respectful to fellow employees is a habit that carries over to the way the public is treated, Kimbell said.
Now is a crucial time for circuit clerks’ offices throughout the state, Kimbell said, as many clerks – including those in Henry and Trimble counties – now plan to retire.
While the position isn’t about policy-setting, she said, it is important to be present in the clerk’s office to serve as a backup for staff members and to lead by example.
Kaelin and Kimbell recently left their jobs in the clerk’s office in order to run for the position.
Rash said he wants to continue his record of public service, including four terms as a magistrate.
He said his leadership experience also comes from running a wholesale wallpaper business that quickly grew from zero to 13 employees.
Rash said he wants the circuit court clerk’s office to be more accessible, including evening hours every Thursday.
Rash said if elected, he wants to be more effective in lobbying the state legislature, because sooner or later, the state must change the way it makes money.
Other candidates disagreed, and said being present in the clerk’s office to manage day-to-day operations is of utmost importance.
The candidates also discussed effective management under the state’s merit system, how to offset budgetary constraints, handling conflict among employees and a move toward digital record-keeping.