DOBSON — The 2018 general election is a year and a half away, but two Democrats already have their eyes set on the clerk of courts position.
John R. Snow and Kim Goings Thomas have filed their intent with the Surry County Board of Elections to run for the office, currently held by Teresa O’Dell.
Snow, 54, has been a magistrate in Surry County for more than two decades. He said he has the experience at all levels of the judicial system to get the clerk’s office functioning as it should. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from N.C. State University.
“‘Leadership without politics’ is my campaign slogan,” said Snow, who claims O’Dell has politicized the office of clerk since taking the helm after a narrow victory in 2014.
Snow believes O’Dell hurt the operations of the office when she terminated the employment of a handful of seasoned veterans when she took over.
“They weren’t employees who weren’t doing their jobs,” explained Snow. “It damaged the quality of work in that office.”
Snow said his decades of experience as a magistrate have helped prepare him for the position. He has an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system, and he hears cases in small claims court every week.
“You have to have an understanding of the law and good judgment,” said Snow of the attributes a clerk of court ought to have, noting the clerk can rule on some civil matters such as estates and child custody.
Snow said he can’t speak to any specific instance of something “patently illegal or not kosher” happening in the clerk’s office, but he does believe there is a lot of room for improvement.
As an example, he discussed scheduling in criminal cases. According to Snow, there are instances in which law enforcement officers must appear three different times in court. Oftentimes there is no consideration given to their schedules, and they must appear on days off.
Snow said there is a means to change that — partially by using available technology.
“I think we need to be at the forefront of technology, and I don’t see that happening in Surry County,” explained Snow. “That is a problem with leadership.”
“The position is about keeping the records of the court and running the office efficiently,” added Snow. “That’s what I intend to do.”
Snow said he is “100-percent ready” to run a county-wide campaign in 2018 — first for the democratic nomination in the spring then in the general election.
While he said it’s a little early to start knocking on doors, he has a campaign committee in place and is building his campaign infrastructure.
“I want to run a positive campaign and have an effective clerk’s office,” concluded Snow.
Thomas was one of the employees O’Dell terminated upon taking office, but she said that decision isn’t what’s behind her run for the office.
“That’s the clerk’s prerogative,” said Thomas. “She did exactly what a clerk can do.”
Thomas, 50, had spent about a dozen years at the clerk’s office before O’Dell’s decision.
Prior to that, she worked as a telecommunicator for the Pilot Mountain Police Department, the Mount Airy Police Department and the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. She also graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training at Surry Community College in 1989.
After leaving the Surry County clerk’s office, Thomas continued her career at the Forsyth County Clerk of Court’s office, retiring this year. She said she retired to make seeking office in Surry County her priority.
She added that she’s in the race because her experience has equipped her to serve the residents of Surry County. She worked in the criminal and juvenile divisions and at both the superior and district court levels throughout her tenures at the two clerk’s offices.
“Experience is everything in that position,” said Thomas.
She added that her move to Forsyth in recent years only helped her come to the decision to seek the Surry County office.
“After having the privilege of serving in a larger county, I believe I have ideas which could serve the residents of Surry County,” said Thomas.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.