Candidates running for the office of Clerk of Superior Court in Vance County spoke on Monday’s Town Talk.
Amanda Burnette is challenging incumbent Henry L. Gupton in the May 17 primary and each discussed how their experiences will help them fulfill their duties if elected.
Burnette began her career as a deputy clerk in Vance County in 2001, and then was promoted to assistant deputy in 2013. Since 2017, she has been working in the Franklin County Clerk of Court’s office since 2017. Burnette lives in the Cokesbury community, where she was born and raised, and said she wants to come back to serve her fellow county residents.
“It is my goal, my dream, to come back home to all citizens of Vance County,” Burnette told John C. Rose in an interview that aired Monday.
Burnette said she has the experience necessary with the inner workings of the clerk of courts office, coupled with the compassion necessary to treat people with respect and fairness.
She has worked with bookkeeping and record keeping, she said, but “without a doubt,” I love working in the special proceedings division,” Burnette said.
This division processes, among other things, adoptions. “When I see a child smile and hug me after signing an adoption decree,” she said, “it makes my heart sing.”
Other issues have the potential to be a bit more contentious, she said, noting that land issues and guardian issues sometimes bring out difficult and complicated family dynamics.
“It’s always my goal to listen to both sides equally and fairly before making a decision,” Burnette said.
She said she spends a lot of time researching the North Carolina General Statutes to conduct the business of the court. “We have to know it,” she said of state law, “but we can’t practice it.” Local clerks of court depend on the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts legal team to assist in providing legal interpretations.
“I will be ready to work for you on Day One,” Burnette said, adding that she would have an open-door policy to listen to citizens and their needs.
She said she would make sure the clerk of court staff is courteous to the public and assist them to the best of their abilities.
Effective communication is key to maintaining an efficient courthouse, she said, adding that she enjoys working with the district attorney’s office, judges and the public to provide the best services possible.
Gupton, first appointed to the job of clerk of superior court in 2017, iwas first elected to the office in 2018. He said his 30-plus years as a Vance County deputy and magistrate provide him with the experience necessary to oversee the work that goes on in the clerk’s office.
His previous experience with those facets of the law help especially with the criminal and civil law matters that come through the clerk’s office.
That’s the majority of the work of the clerk’s office, he said, but he said the citizens of Vance County also come to the courthouse when they’re handling estates, adoptions and name changes, too.
“I just enjoy helping people,” Gupton said in an interview with John C. Rose, adding that he is available to talk with citizens whenever and wherever needed. “I’m not an individual behind closed doors,” he said.
Gupton said in 2018-19 the office handled more than $6 million through payments of such things as fines, fees and cash bonds. In the course of a routine state audit, no deficiencies were found, he said. “That much money comes through the clerk of court’s office and we don’t have any problems,” Gupton said.
He said he’s proud of his staff, which includes 12 deputy clerks and five assistant clerks, who work hard every day to serve the people of Vance County.
“I really care about my staff,” Gupton said. “They do a wonderful job for me and for the citizens – we all work for the citizens…I can’t thank my staff enough for what they do.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gupton said he worked closely with Granville-Vance Public Health director Lisa Harrison to ensure that safety protocols were in place to protect both courthouse personnel as well as the public who had business with the court.
He said he and Harrison had several meetings, created a plan, and were able to keep the courthouse up and running.
The courthouse breezeway even became a spot where folks could get their shot; Gupton said it seemed like a central location to provide citizens another opportunity to be vaccinated while doing their business in the courthouse.
As a way to reduce courtroom backlogs, Gupton said he and Judge John Dunlow are working together to try and to come up with ways to help. He said he would like to get his staff some help from temporary workers to help staff and whittle down the backlog.