Clerk of court hopeful seeks ‘end to political power’

Last updated: December 10. 2013 5:26PM - 2250 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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Although the candidates’ filing period doesn’t begin for another two months in Surry County, that hasn’t kept office-seekers from tossing their hats into the ring.

That includes a past unsuccessful candidate for county clerk of court in 2002 and 2006 who believes the time is right to now attain that office and end what she calls the “political power” surrounding the position.

“The appointment of clerk has been handed down from generation to generation to an individual who has been groomed or chosen by a present clerk,” Teresa O’Dell said Tuesday of her plans to file as a Republican candidate for that position.

“We must put an end to political power in the clerk’s office,” added O’Dell, who ran for the office against Pam Marion, a former clerk, in Surry’s 2002 and 2004 general elections. “The office of clerk belongs to the people of this county.”

Marion retired at the end of last year after serving as clerk since 2002 and Rebecca Brendle, who was appointed to fill out of the remainder of Marion’s unexpired four-year term, has said she would run for the office in 2014. Marion left at the midway point of her latest term.

O’Dell — who lost to Marion in the 2006 election by a vote count of 9,187 to 6,450, according to previous reports — cited a change in the local political climate for making her hopeful about victory this time around.

While the number of registered Democrats in Surry historically has dwarfed that of Republicans, this has shifted in recent years. As of Tuesday afternoon, GOP registrants outnumbered Democrats 17,524 to 16,212, with 9,805 voters in the county unaffiliated.

“I’ve always wanted to be clerk,” said O’Dell, whose work experience includes 15 years in the Surry County clerk’s office, “and it just seems to be a great opportunity, with the Republican swing — I think our county has become more conservative.”

That swing contributed to the ouster of multiple incumbent Democrats on the Surry County Board of Commissioners in 2010, with all five board seats now held by Republicans.

O’Dell, 52, of Mount Airy, is a lifelong Surry County resident who graduated from North Surry High School and Gardner-Webb University, and as of last Friday is a retiree.

In addition to working at the Surry County clerk’s office, O’Dell served as a probation officer in Yadkin County for four years and also has twice been employed by the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office. Her experience in Yadkin includes working as a 911 communicator.

O’Dell also was a part-time instructor for five years in the criminal justice department at Surry County Community College.

Among her goals if elected is streamlining the training of employees in the clerk’s office.

Filing Period

O’Dell, or any additional candidates who wish to enter the clerk’s race or others, must wait until Feb. 10 — when the filing period opens for local political offices — to make those intentions official.

Candidates may file from noon on Feb. 10 to Feb. 28 at noon.

In addition to the clerk of court position, next year’s election in the county will affect the offices of sheriff and seats on the Surry Board of Commissioners, along with school board slots and others.

Candidates of the same political party who vie for partisan offices will square off in a spring primary leading to the general election in November 2014.

Judge Seeks State Post

Another person getting an early start on the 2014 political season is Judge William F. Southern III of King, who presides over District Court in Surry and Stokes counties.

King recently announced that he is seeking a seat on the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Before becoming a judge in 2008, Southern served as an assistant district attorney in Surry and Stokes. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a law degree at Texas Southern University.

The seat Southern is vying for is now held by Judge Bob Hunter, who announced in August that he will not run for re-election in 2014.

Southern is a Republican, but the Court of Appeals seats are non-partisan.

The Court of Appeals is North Carolina’s intermediate appellate court. Composed of 15 judges who hear cases in panels of three, it reviews proceedings from trial courts for errors of law or legal procedure. Judges of the Court of Appeals serve eight-year terms.

“My experience as an attorney and judge in the trial courts helps me understand the real-world consequences of appellate review. I believe my breadth of experience, practicality and sense of fairness make me the right choice to serve on the Court of Appeals,” Southern said in a statement.

“Throughout my career, I have worked to improve the administration of justice in our state,” he added. “I see this as an opportunity to continue to serve the needs of North Carolinians statewide.”

Along with O’Dell and Southern, George Wass, 19, an Elkin-area resident, announced in early fall his intentions to run in 2014 for the 90th District seat in the N.C. House of Representatives now held by Sarah Stevens of Mount Airy.

Both Wass and Stevens are Republicans.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.com.

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