Beaufort County Clerk of Court Jerri Roseneau is being challenged by a former colleague, Ray Garza, in the June 12 Republican primary.
Roseneau, 50, was appointed nearly three years ago by Gov. Mark Sanford after the previous clerk resigned in disgrace. Since her appointment, Roseneau said she's stabilized the office, improved record-keeping and transparency and sharply reduced spending.
Garza, 35, worked first as a Beaufort County criminal court clerk and then as division chief for common pleas from 2007 to 2009. He left about five months into Roseneau's tenure. If elected, he promises to improve customer service and create new quality-control standards.
The position, which manages court records and has responsibility for paying for administrative tasks such as gas-mileage reimbursements to jury members, carries a four-year term.
Roseneau worked for 28 years as a legal assistant with the Beaufort law firm of Howell, Gibson & Hughes before replacing Elizabeth Smith, who was found guilty in 2010 of embezzling $23,500 from the office.
Garza spent a decade in the U.S. Marine Corps, including more than six years on active duty at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. He owns Garza Process Serving and works as a title abstractor for Coastal Land Title.
Since taking over, Roseneau said she's upgraded computer systems, allowing basic court functions to run more smoothly, and implemented new bookkeeping methods to better track office finances. She said staff members have also begun going back through old files to "clean up" errors from past administrations.
She's also cut circuit and family court annual budgets by 24 percent and 37 percent respectively, compared to her predecessor, and created a direct deposit program for child support payments.
"This office is completely different than when I came into it," she said. "Our dockets are moving, our attorneys are happy, our judges are happy."
If elected, Garza says he would create new quality control measures to prevent mistakes and other errors from turning up in case files. During a recent "audit" of old cases, he says he found problems with more than half of the files he checked.
"This office could be run more efficiently, but I think it's got to start from the top," he said.
He proposes yearly financial audits and an upgraded website to let the public know how money is being spent. He says the court should use volunteers to assist with filing, thereby freeing office staff for other functions. He also wants to open a satellite branch in Bluffton, reduce photocopy charges and accept credit card payments for court fees and fines.
There are no Democrats in the race, which is the only county-wide measure on Tuesday's primary ballot.