(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a three-part series looking at the candidates in the Democratic primary for Madison County Circuit Clerk. There are no Republicans in the race, so the Democratic primary winner will get the office. Monday's Register will include an article on Darlene Snyder, and a profile of Brandy Winkler will be published Tuesday.)
Although Madison Circuit Clerk is the first elected office Jennifer Webb has run for, politics have interested her for a very long time.
"I met (former Kentucky governor) Martha Layne Collins when I was 8, and that was a pretty life-changing event for me,” Webb said. “Things took off from there.”
The 37-year-old went on to minor in political science at Eastern Kentucky University. It was her major, paralegal science, that landed her a job as the judicial paralegal for the Madison and Clark counties district judges’ office.
Webb worked at that job for 16 years before quitting recently to focus on her circuit clerk campaign.
“This is an office I’ve had a bird’s-eye view of for more than 16 years, so I see a lot of different avenues that are available to raise the standard in that office and make it the best circuit clerk’s office in the state,” Webb said.
Webb has no shortage of ideas on how the circuit clerk’s office could better serve the public, while becoming more efficient to save taxpayers’ money.
First, she would like to extend hours for the driver’s licensing office, which currently is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“I don’t think it’s fair for taxpayers to take off work in order to go get their driver’s license renewed before 4 o’clock,” Webb said.
Webb also would like to expand the Berea satellite office, which is currently open only on Friday.
“I think that having a satellite office that’s open Monday through Friday would give Berea residents better access to that office,” Webb said.
Webb believes these changes can be done without the need for extra money or staffing. She also said she would like to apply for a grant to fund a 24-hour domestic violence clerk.
“Domestic violence doesn’t just occur (between) the hours of 8 and 4, Monday through Friday,” she said. She pointed out the forms for an emergency protective order are lengthy, and a clerk who specializes in this would free up law enforcement officers.
One of Webb’s major platforms in the circuit clerk race is improving the technology of the office.
“What happens is the technology gets rolled out, and the clerk we have now, I think she's done a great job,” Webb said. “I think when she came in we were a very rural community and over time ... we went from a rural community to a big population increase, so she wasn't prepared, she didn't envision that she would have to utilize all the technology.”
Webb said the state has already supplied scanners for the circuit clerk’s office that she believes are being underutilized. She envisions reducing paper and postage costs by scanning most documents and emailing them to attorneys.
The office also has case file barcode scanners that aren’t being used, according to Webb.
“They are entering this information by hand when we could be utilizing those scanners to be more efficient,” Webb said.
“When you kind of sit back and don’t take advantage of those opportunities, you fall behind a bit,” she added.
Webb has campaigned heavily on her record with volunteer and civic organizations. She has been the coordinator for Madison County Teen Court since 2003 and Madison County Youth in Action since 2006. She has been active with the Madison County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, the Madison County Safety Coalition and the Madison County Delinquency Prevention Council.
“I’ve had a couple of critics say ‘What does that have to do with court?’” Webb said. “It has everything to do with court.”
Webb said it is important to reach out to youth and try to prevent problems with drugs and alcohol before young people end up in the court system facing criminal charges.
“I think you just have to step outside of the office,” Webb said. “I think it's expected of an elected official to not just be an effective leader but also be involved in the issues that affect that office.”
If elected, Webb also plans on applying for a grant to launch a child-ID program in Madison County.
“Over the last decade, judges have created more community partnerships, they've become more community responsive, as they should ... I believe our clerk's office has missed that opportunity,” Webb said.
Webb said if she is elected she would “absolutely” retain the current circuit clerk’s staff.
“All deputy clerks are merit employees; their jobs are protected,” Webb said.
Webb’s campaign has run neck-and-neck with opponent Darlene Snyder’s campaign when it comes to individual donation totals. While both women have brought in around $15,000 as of April 25, Webb pointed out she has significantly more people contributing.
“I’ve been very involved in the community, I’ve created many community partnerships, and I think that is reflected in my campaign contributions,” Webb said.
Snyder has the financial backing of several local attorneys, an occupation that is mostly absent from Webb’s list of donors. Webb said she did not approach local attorneys for donations as she believes that would be a conflict of interest because the circuit clerk’s office works closely with attorneys.
Regardless of who her supporters are, Webb believes her education, experience and outlook make her the most qualified candidate in the race.
“I have the initiative, energy and enthusiasm for the job,” she said. “ ... I think it's time for fresh ideas and young energy to bring us up to date.”
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.
Election campaign financial contributions
As of May 7, Jennifer Webb had total receipts of $40,520 with total disbursements of $14,104.54 with an ending balance of $27, 206.31. Source: Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, www.kref.state.ky.us
Melissa Jones, $1,000, Berea, Jones Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, self-employed dentist
James Morgan, $1,000, Berea, retired
Juanita Morgan, $1,000, Berea, Morgan’s Discount owner
Anonymous, $550, seven people
Donald Corder, $500, Richmond, Kentucky National Guard Drug Reduction Demand
Vanna Keo, $500, Richmond, Angel Nails owner
Ben Robinson, $500, Richmond, Corning Inc. manager
Monty Brock, $250, Richmond, Monty’s Liquor owner
Rodney Short, $250, Berea, Rodney Short Builders
James Hillard, $200, Berea, Middletown Industrial Machine owner
Roger Oliver, $200, Berea, attorney, Oliver and Oliver
Brent Ray, $200, Richmond, Brent Ray Homes
Mike Robertson, $200, Richmond, Concrete Materials Co. vice president
Virgil Burnside, $150, Berea, retired
Doug Sexton, $150, Berea, Sexton Painting painter
Allen Ault, $100, Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University dean
Steven Bailey, $100, Berea, Telford YMCA assistant director
Richard Bellando, $100, retired, Berea city council member
Don Combs, $100, Berea, no employer/occupation listed
Thana Connelly, $100, Berea, teacher, Rockcastle County Board of Education
James Dennis, $100, Stanton, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance agency manager
Walter Ecton, $100, Richmond, attorney
Lola Farnstrom, $100, Richmond, Bechtel National Inc. estimator
Amie Gallion, $100, Richmond, teacher, Madison County Board of Education
Janice Lakes, $100, Berea, retired
Jerry Little, $100, Berea, no employer/occupation listed, Berea City Council member
John Lovell, $100, Berea, retired
Stephen Lowery, $100, Richmond, self-employed painter
Jim Lunsford, $100, Berea, no employer/occupation listed
Paula Maionchi, $100, Richmond, physician
William Robertson, $100, Richmond, no employer/occupation listed
Tex Scenters, $100, Berea, retired
William Strong, $100, Richmond, City of Richmond building maintenance
William Suters, $100, Berea, retired
Billy Wagers, $100, Berea, retired
Orville Webb, $100, Berea, retired
James Westenhoeffer, $100, Richmond, attorney
Alvin Whitaker, $100, Richmond, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Co. property claim adjuster
John Young, $100, Richmond, First Insurance Group insurance agent
Sharon Smith, $75, Richmond, Madison County Board of Education teacher
William Allen, Richmond, $50, no employer/occupation listed
Lisa Caudill, $50, Berea, Madison County Board of Education, teacher
Patsy Christian, $50, Richmond, Madison Pharmacy pharmacy tech
Sean Hamilton, $50, Richmond, Wallingford Broadcasting general manager
Edna Maupin, $50, Berea, retired
Barry Metcalf, $50, Richmond, no employer/occupation listed
Elaine Tackett, $50, Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University professor
Billy Hughes, $20, Waco, no employer/occupation listed, member of Madison Fiscal Court
Brenda Droege, $25, Richmond, no employer/occupation listed
Preston Elrod, $25, Lexington, Eastern Kentucky University professor
Evan McCord, $25, Richmond, self-employed farmer
Jonah Farnstrom, $3, Richmond
INDIVIDUAL IN-KIND CONTRIBUTION
Bruce Cope, $500 (fundraiser food and supplies), Berea, Bruce Cope Builders Inc. builder
Elizabeth Bond, $474 (sign frames), Winchester, attorney
Kevin Jones, $262.01 (food for fundraising event), Berea, disabled
Alfredo Escobar, $200 (campaign T-shirts), Berea, Good Impressions Screenprinting & Design owner/operator
Kevin Jones, $135 (postage for invitations), Berea, disabled
Jennifer Webb, $300 (campaign photos), $20 (website domain registration), $41 (campaign PO Box rental), $20 (county map), $50 (circuit clerk filing fee), $117 (campaign postage), $37.10 (fundraising event supplies), $67.84 (campaign polo shirts), $10.60 (campaign sign), Richmond, candidate
Jennifer Webb, $22,500 (loan)