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Clerk candidates attend forum

Residents of Buckingham County got to learn more about the five candidates in the running for Buckingham County Circuit Court Clerk during a forum held Tuesday at the county agricultural building.

David Ball, Sam Davis, Diane Blackburn, C.T. “Nicci” Edmondston and Justin Midkiff answered six questions by moderator Daniel Bradshaw, chairman of Prince Edward County Republican Committee.

The forum was hosted by the Buckingham County Republican Committee, led by Dylan Slaughter.

The Hon. Malcolm Booker, who served in the Circuit Court Clerk office for 45 years, retired at the end of June.

Questions included what uniquely qualifies each candidate for the position, what aspects of the county they would like to see change, roles models that shaped their character and goals, how they would describe Buckingham County to someone who has not visited the area and their thoughts on the importance of faith and family.

Joking that the committee held the controversial question for last, candidates were asked a positive action President Donald Trump has accomplished in office.

Ball highlighted his experience in management, real estate and administration, and cited the importance of the circuit court clerk position, which is to handle and organize records of the court, and oversee representatives in the circuit court office.

“As a person who has the ability to manage resources, manage people, be fair in treating the people, understand the difficulties people go through, these are the kind of things you have to bring to the job,” Ball said.

He noted his active role in the community attending board of supervisor and committee meetings, and said while the clerk of the court is not authorized to change policies, there are causes for concern in the county.

“There are serious concerns,” Ball said, citing lack of access to broadband for many residents and issues with the fire departments and rescue squad.

For issues Ball seeks to investigate as clerk, he spoke about “digitally integrating technology into the clerk office … taking those records digitally, downloading them, but also archiving in a shelter protected environment for the older records. Also, there’s a serious concern about identity and property theft, as far as these are big things people now can use the internet to create documents that can steal your property as well as your identity.”

Sam Davis cited his nearly 16 years of experience with the Buckingham County Sheriff’s Office and said that his experience with police and court records in that capacity would be an asset to the court as the county has two correctional facilities.

He and Diane Blackburn also mentioned the history of the courthouse, that it and the records burned in 1869.

He described the role of the clerk as “not only the caretaker of the records of the court, but also the caretaker of the county’s history.”

Davis, who has four adopted children and spoke about looking up to his father, who recently died, said he understands the importance of family, of faith and treating those in the county like family.

Davis described Buckingham County as the sum of its people: neighborly and willing to go to the ends of the earth to help someone else.

“Buckingham is more than just pretty spaces and forestland,” Davis said. “To really know about Buckingham, you’ve got to know us people. People who will help each other, help a neighbor in need, to come out in a crisis situation … Buckingham’s people pull together.”

Blackburn, who is currently serving as the circuit court clerk since July 1 following Booker’s retirement, spoke about her goals to establish a credit card payment system, so members of the public can pay for records via credit card. Blackburn also is seeking to establish a state-recommended case imaging system, which would be fileless, digital, available online to all court personnel and save space within the circuit court office.

She also spoke about her extensive experience within the circuit court system, being a member of the Virginia Circuit Court Clerk Association, a certified deputy clerk with the Weldon-Cooper center through the University of Virginia, and working in the Buckingham Circuit Court Office since 1987.

“I’ve been fully trained in all responsibilities and have over 40-plus classes from the Supreme Court of Virginia,” Blackburn said. “It takes someone that’s been there to go back into the records and find them for you.”

She spoke about working closely with Booker, and said she has been motivated seeing Booker’s careful, hardworking and friendly demeanor, and said she has his endorsement for circuit court clerk.

“He is a wonderful person as all of you know,” Blackburn said. “Malcolm loved the public and that was one thing he instilled upon us, that the public always came first.”

Edmondston spoke about her experience working for management for BB&T Bank and Assistant County Administrator/Finance Director for Cumberland County.

She described the court records as stories that describe the lives of each resident, and she spoke about her commitment to protecting them and interacting with members of the public.

“What I bring to the table, to serve you as your Buckingham County Circuit Court Clerk, is over 20 years in the private sector, and currently in local government,” Edmondston said.

About interacting with the public, Edmondston joked, “I can’t sing or dance, but I can talk to you.”

Edmondston said her faith and her family, teachers and colleagues served as role models for her.

“My faith in the Lord formed me, it gave me my own code of ethics,” Edmondston said about her faith. “I will do the right thing, I will do the good thing even when others do not, because I am not doing it for them, I am doing it for me to be an outward light of the person that I follow on a day-to-day basis … I want my children to participate in local government and to realize the importance of every citizen here in Buckingham and to contribute and be upwardly mobile in our society.”

Justin Midkiff, at 25, is the youngest candidate running. He cited his education at the University of Virginia in American government and politics, taking classes in business, commercial law, legislative and environmental policymaking, and his leadership experience at his family’s company, Midkiff Timber LLC, that contributed to his passion to bring new ideas and a promise to stay as clerk for the long haul.

“As your next clerk of circuit court, I’ll be a leader for the people that work there, I’ll be a leader for the county,” Midkiff said.

He emphasized the entire community’s importance and role in the clerk position, that whether black, white, Democrat or Republican, they all deserve respect and a place to research records and have their own kept safe. He spoke about his commitment to community engagement, citing a lecture series he and other representatives gave to Buckingham County High School government students, that he helped students register to vote, and that he helped representatives of Ellis Acres Memorial Park deforest a section of land on the park property that gave representatives access to a school building that taught African-American students previously covered by forest.

“Being a public servant, you have to treat each person that comes into that courtroom, in that clerk’s office as family, because you represent the public and you are accountable to the people,” Midkiff said.

Responses about Trump’s positive actions in office included his work in boosting the economy and maintaining his beliefs under the pressures of leadership.

Slaughter said after the forum that he was pleased by the turnout, not only by the candidates but by the members of the community. He was also grateful to see the level of respect each candidate had for one another.

“Everyone was respectful,” Slaughter said. “Everyone treated everyone with respect even though everybody may have a different political opinion, and of course here, everyone is on a different campaign.”

“It was very informative,” participant Mona Banton said about the event. “I didn’t know a lot of these people.”