BERRYVILLE — Clarke County's new interim circuit court clerk, April Wilkerson, said she plans to seek election to the seat in the Nov. 3 election.
Having worked in the clerk's office for 23 years and served as chief deputy clerk since 2001, Wilkerson believes her experience makes her the best person for the job.
Somebody without experience could run, she acknowledged. But there are many details involved in processing and maintaining court records and legal documents such as deeds, marriage licenses, wills and estates in accordance with state laws. So "it would be difficult for anyone just to come in" and be the clerk, she said, without first having gained some experience by working in the clerk's office.
Circuit Court Judge Alexander Iden recently swore in Wilkerson to immediately succeed former clerk Helen Butts, who retired effective April 1 after serving in that role since October 1996 and working in the clerk's office for 57 years.
Working together for so long, Butts, Wilkerson and Deputy Clerk Kate Anderson became a close-knit trio.
"We all joked that we'd retire at the same time" eventually, Wilkerson said. laughing.
So it was a shock, she said, when Butts announced her retirement plans last October.
"It's definitely different without her" in the office, she added, "although it's only been a week" since Butts left.
Wilkerson knows she has some big shoes to fill, so to speak. Many people have the utmost respect for Butts and regard her as a local legend.
"It's a big step going from a deputy to a clerk," Wilkerson said. "I've tried over the years to learn (the procedures of) the whole office to help make Mrs. Butts' job easier."
But there will be a "learning curve" while she learns some new responsibilities. An example is working with the State Compensation Board on financial matters, such as salaries.
"I had no prior dealings with them," said Wilkerson. "Mrs. Butts always dealt with them. But everybody I've dealt with (so far) has been more than helpful."
She is confident that she will be an excellent court clerk.
"I want to carry on Mrs. Butts' legacy," Wilkerson said. "I want to show her that I listened and learned ... and truly appreciate everything she taught me."
Wilkerson is planning no immediate changes to operations of the clerk's office, but she is working with the state to develop ways to help people submit records and make payments electronically.
For the time being, she and Anderson will continue running the office. That will suffice because there have been fewer visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the office generally is a busy place, with people constantly coming and going. When life returns to normal, having only two workers will be problematic, Wilkerson predicted, especially if she has to be in court and Anderson is all by herself, trying to answer phones while handling visitors' needs.
Under state procedures, should another person run for circuit court clerk and be elected, Wilkerson will move back into the chief deputy's role and Anderson will retain her current job. If Wilkerson is elected, Anderson will be promoted to chief deputy and another deputy will be hired.
A new deputy couldn't immediately be hired, anyway. Because of budget constraints, there is a hiring freeze within state government. Hopefully, it will be lifted before the election, Wilkerson said.
Nobody has yet filed the necessary paperwork to be a formal candidate for circuit court clerk in the November special election, said Clarke County General Registrar and Elections Director Barbara Bosserman.
Aug. 14 is the deadline.