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COMMENTARY: Comparing the candidates in court clerk special election
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COMMENTARY: Comparing the candidates in court clerk special election

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Snow Culpeper Courthouse (copy) (copy)

Snow falls in December on the Culpeper Courthouse on Davis Street.

The Jan. 31 Star-Exponent article, “Culpeper Clerk of Court Tasked with Many Responsibilities,” provides an astounding list of tasks for which the Clerk of Circuit Court is directly responsible.

That list showed just how much we all have at stake in the March 30 special election. A clerk without the proper experience, training, and integrity could cause problems for each and every one of us.

The commentary’s author identified nine broad areas of responsibilities for this constitutional officer, each requiring a separate set of steps for implementation based on the State Code. Let me highlight just a few.

High on the list is recorder of deeds; in addition, probate of wills, divorces, and child welfare cases are also affairs that might affect all of us at some time. Imagine, for example, closing on the sale of a house or executing a will and not being able to obtain the proper documents. These have to be filed in their proper place at the proper time, with the expectation that they can be retrieved in the future.

It is clear to me that, between the two candidates, only Carson W. Beard has the experience and training to be the custodian of so many vital records in our courthouse. He has spent the last six years under the tutelage of the recently retired Clerk of the Court, Janice Corbin. His progress and abilities did not go unnoticed by Corbin, a Culpeper native with 25 years’ experience, the last 15 as clerk.

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As Chief Deputy Clerk, Beard, also born and reared in Culpeper, supervised the team of courtroom clerks who were responsible for having everything in order so the Circuit Court Judge could preside efficiently over cases each day. This might be the largest day-to-day responsibility of the clerk’s office.

Beard has had more than 3,000 hours of courtroom experience over the last six years. He was promoted to chief deputy and later interim Clerk of the Court because of his aptitude for the job and his thorough understanding of its function and duties.

This election is being held to fill the remaining three years of Corbin’s term. One thing that may have gone unnoticed is that the clerk’s full term is eight years, in contrast to the four-year term of other officials. This is not a coincidence. The Commonwealth understood the immensity of the job and, in establishing the longer term, considered the weight of the necessary training and expertise involved. Institutional knowledge is the key to proper performance of this job.

Voters began casting early, in-person ballots on Friday, Feb. 12, at the county elections office. Voting will continue through election day, Tuesday, March 30.

We must choose our Clerk of the Court with the utmost care. There is only one clear choice: Carson W. Beard is the only candidate with the institutional knowledge and experience to step into office ready to go on Day One.

Indeed, he has been doing the job effectively and efficiently for many months, including supervising ten employees as they perform their various tasks each day. Electing someone without training or bona fide courtroom experience—or any other relevant experience—would be a mistake we could all regret for years to come.

As Abraham Lincoln wisely advised, “Don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream.’

Donna DeAngelis, a resident of Culpeper with a small farm in Reva, is retired after more than 40 years as a social worker, most recently on an international level. She volunteers with several local organizations, including Friends of the Culpeper County Library.

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