Two current employees in the county clerk’s office are looking to be the Republican voters’ choice to replace outgoing County Clerk Cynthia Mitchell in the upcoming primary election.
Chief deputy clerk D’Lynne Shelton and criminal clerk Juli Anne Luke are facing off in the March 4 Republican primary to decide who will lead the office going forward. No Democrat has filed for the position.
Mitchell is stepping aside to run for Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace.
The county clerk, the records-keeper of Denton County, serves a four-year term and earns $92,758 annually with a $5,200 car allowance. The clerk’s office maintains records for births, deaths and marriages and real property; staffs the county, misdemeanor, civil, probate, mental health and juvenile courts; takes commissioners court minutes; oversees the law library and the collections department for all court levels; and can accept applications for U.S. passports. The office has a main location in Denton and satellite facilities in Carrollton and Cross Roads.
For Shelton, 39, of Aubrey, the county clerk’s position would be a culmination of 20 years of work and the next step in her career.
“I’ve had my head down working for the past 20 years and the political thing has not been something at the forefront of my mind,” Shelton said. “I didn’t know what I was jumping into, but I know that I care about this office and I care about its future, and I am willing to go through whatever it takes to make sure the right leadership is in place.”
Shelton began as a temporary worker in the office. She worked her way up to assistant to the supervisor, then supervisor and finally to her position as chief deputy, which she has held since 2010.
Shelton said, if elected, she would bring her experience, including leadership training received under the current county clerk and specialized training for the office, and good working relationships with area officials.
“All of those things make it a pretty easy way to transition and keep what we have going without any down time,” she said.
Shelton said she would keep the processes currently in place and continue to improve.
“The main thing I will bring to this position is a different leadership style,” she said. “I have different thought processes, different ideas that’s going to make, I would think, a drastic improvement.”
Shelton said she wants to make upgrades to the website with video instructions on how to complete forms and other business with the clerk’s office and set up a chat room for residents needing help from office staff. Shelton says she also wants to streamline the system for filing foreclosure notices, which she says is now outdated and time-consuming for clerks.
“We have to catch up with current technology on those things,” she said.
Juli Anne Luke
Luke, 44, of Corinth currently works in the misdemeanor section on the criminal side of the county clerk’s office, working directly with the judges in the courtroom and overseeing items filed with the court.
“It’s the most complex portion of the county clerk office,” she said. “It’s integrated with so many other law enforcement agencies, the [Texas Department of Public Safety] in Austin. It’s highly complex and integrated, [and] I have mastered that part of the position.”
Luke touted her good working relationships with the judges, saying they know her work ethic, sense of responsibility and professionalism.
“They know I will do what it takes to get the job done properly,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of encouragement from a lot of elected officials due to that professionalism. They know I feel strongly about accountability to the taxpayer and it will continue. I think that is paramount to this position.”
If elected, Luke plans to attack the budget, peel back some layers of management and make the office more accessible to the public.
“I am not saying eliminate those positions — reorganizing,” she said. “You lose that accountability to the voters with the layers of management in place. It’s a public service position; it’s not self-serving.”
Luke said her experience learning the criminal side of the office will help her learn other aspects of the office, including civil, mental health and probate.
But Luke knows she has to get elected first.
“It’s not a fun position to be in, running against your boss,” she said. “But I know it’s the right thing.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.
DENTON COUNTY CLERK CANDIDATES
Occupation: chief deputy, Denton County Clerk’s Office
Prior political history: None
Background: Currently, chief deputy county clerk with 20 years of experience in the county clerk’s office;within three years of employment in the clerk’s office, promoted to a management position; volunteer and vice president of Keep Aubrey Beautiful Committee; board member and volunteer for the nonprofit Born 2 Be Therapeutic Equestrian Center.
Top priorities for this office: Bring a new leadership style to this office; bring the focus back to Denton County and Texas by not participating at a national level, a movethat will reduce by one-third the training and education budget; preserve the progress already made in the office and continue to expand on technological improvements, including adding video instructions and a live chat window to thewebsite.
Juli Anne Luke
Occupation: senior criminal court clerk, Denton County
Prior political history: None.
Background: Worked on the criminal side of the clerk’s office for eight and a half years; volunteers with Halo for Freedom — Wounded Warrior functions.
Top priorities forthis office: Conserve taxpayer dollars by cutting travel and education expenses;removing layers of management between the office and the public; establish a better working relationship with other elected officials and department heads;treat employees with respect and professionalism.