BELTON — Ever since Sheila Norman announced she wasn’t running for another term as Bell County district clerk in October, the normally staid, down-ballot race has been the talk of the town among the county’s political class and courthouse watchers.
Part of the reason the district clerk’s race captured so much attention is because it attracted three new, and relatively unknown, candidates: Jeanne Guthrie, the chief deputy in the district clerk’s office, Susan Parker, a local attorney, and Joanna Flores Staton, the court coordinator for the district courts.
Guthrie, who spent the last 15 years in the district clerk’s office, said there aren’t a lot of major changes that can be made.
“The policies and procedures of the district clerk’s office are governed by state code,” Guthrie said. “They can’t be changed. But there are a few slight changes that I’d make, like making the 8 a.m. meeting once a week instead of every day.”
Guthrie said her years of experience in the office don’t automatically translate to the campaign trail.
“I’m so used to doing the job and the politics part is new to me,” Guthrie said. “I’m usually a worker bee.”
Parker, who received a Bachelor of Arts in business management from Texas A&M and a law degree from St. Mary’s University, trumpets her academic and legal credentials when she talks about her qualifications for the office.
“District clerk seemed like a good fit considering my education and background,” Parker said. “I have the legal training to interpret the regulations and requirements from the Legislature as well as any opinions from the attorney general’s office.”
Parker’s husband, Jeff, who is a partner with her in the Parker law firm, is a candidate for 246th District Court judge.
Although Parker is eschewing campaign signs for the moment, both she and her husband have been going door to door on the weekends.
So far, Staton’s campaign has spent more than both of her competitors combined. However, Staton is primarily running on the 25 years of experience she has in the court coordinator’s office.
“I see the district Clerk’s office as a natural extension of what I’ve been doing,” Staton said. “I’ve been working with the attorneys, judges and the public. Now, I just want to take it to a different level.”
Even with her years of experience, she said, “There are going to be things that challenge me, and things I have to learn.”
All three candidates said they plan to continue incorporating and using technology to facilitate the public’s access to information.