Elections: Meet the County Clerk Candidates
Candidates tell voters their vision for the future
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Essex County Clerk to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area, in cooperation with Patch. The candidates were given an equal amount of space for their answers.
Essex County Clerk
Candidates – Vote for one (five year term)
Marcella A. Wilson – Republican, Attorney
Christopher J. Durkin (incumbent) – Democrat, Essex County Clerk
Where do you see opportunities for improvement in the scope of activities handled by the Essex County Clerk's office?
Ms. Wilson: When you visit the Essex County Clerk's website, one issue that becomes immediately obvious is that excessive funds are invested in promoting services outside the core function of the clerk's office. For instance: the clerk's website features a menu labeled "Things To Do" in Essex County. I don't believe the clerk's office is the proper venue for tourist promotion and I doubt many people go to the clerk's site looking for information on recreational activities. The clerk also spends considerable funds on something called "Clerk T.V." including a lengthy episode on marriage which is unnecessary and costly. The clerk's office should be focused on its core duties. The Office of the Clerk and the Register of Deeds and Mortgages should be merged into one office. Other counties in New Jersey roll the duties of the register of deeds into the county clerk's office thereby saving taxpayer dollars. We should follow their example and consolidate as there is no rational argument for having separate offices performing the same function. Government agencies should disengage from senseless self-promotion and adjust their focus to the efficient delivery of essential services.
Mr. Durkin: In the past four years my staff and I have made tremendous strides in providing the citizens of Essex County with the highest level of customer service. It is my belief that in this day and age, government needs to be interactive and convenient. The Clerk's office recognizes the fact that people lead busy lives and need government to be accessible. The Clerk's office provides a convenient outreach schedule where we bring services to the residents of Essex County at hours which are amiable to them. In an average month, we visit 16 to 20 official sites throughout the county and we are open at night and on weekends. The newly expanded Essex County Clerk's website provides citizens with the answers to their questions 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. A user-friendly system allows residents to download various forms/applications at home. In addition, business listings can now be checked from the comfort of your own home.
What is your vision for Essex County?
Ms. Wilson: My vision for Essex County is that it becomes an affordable place for working people to live and raise a family. Our county budget is hurtling toward $700 million a year and our county debt is exploding. Tax dollars are being spent as if the county officials were printing money in the basement of the County Hall of Records. All this spending is taking its toll on Essex County residents, who simply cannot bear the pressure of higher and higher taxes. It should be abundantly clear to everyone that the old ways of doing things just does not work. We need new people with new ideas and a new approach to making county government efficient. We do not need career politicians; we need people who can apply a business approach to management, which includes curtailing spending to essential services only and using technology to reduce operating costs. I also envision a county government that is closer to the people it serves and works cooperatively with churches and civic groups to provide services to the needy at a much lower cost to taxpayers.
Mr. Durkin: In the past four years, my staff and I have made it a strong point to visit many schools throughout Essex County to explain the importance of voting. Since I am passionate about government, as Essex County Clerk, I feel that it is my duty to educate children about this important right. The Essex County Clerk's office is a revenue generating office in the county. During my term in office, we have generated $2.1 million in revenues through the processing of U.S. Passports, notary public oaths and County IDs. We have upgraded our website, making it interactive and user friendly, helping the citizens better understand and use our services. We have implemented and scanned 212,523 business trade name documents, which residents can view and download online. The County Clerk's office has instituted a comprehensive ID card program. In a two-year period, we have issued over 7,000 ID cards. The Clerk's Office will continue to be a citizens service office, where residents of the County can receive convenient and friendly service when they need it. The Essex County Clerk will never forget that our citizens and children always come first. *For more information, please visit www.essexclerk.com.
What are the key qualities that you bring to the residents of Essex County?
Ms. Wilson: First and foremost, I am a businesswoman, not a career politician. I grew up in a working class household that respected hard work and the value of a dollar. As a single parent, I struggled to pay for college and law school. That background has given me an appreciation for how hard Essex County families have to work to afford a home and raise a family. I respect their sacrifices, and I believe county government should show similar sacrifice and restrain spending. My law practice was built on hard work, honesty, making tough decisions, and a deep compassion for the law. These are the same qualities I would apply to the Clerk's Office. As a businesswoman, I also appreciate the struggles of our county's small businesses and will work to provide programs that help those companies be successful. As a parent, I am mindful of the needs of our children; the need to keep them safe and encourage their development. County government can play a positive role in people's lives, but only if those running the county are committed to working together to cut costs and reduce its size, while applying its resources where it is most needed.
Mr. Durkin: I have been a life long resident of Essex County. I was born in Orange, raised in Maplewood, and now reside in West Caldwell with my wife and two children. My family helped to instill many qualities that I possess and that I have continued to develop with time. I am a hard working individual that is passionate about serving the citizens of Essex County. As the Essex County Clerk, I believe that a public servant needs to be accessible and accountable to their constituent's needs. I have strived to provide as much information about government and the services we offer to the citizens of Essex County. Throughout my career, which includes stints in education and law enforcement, I have been goal oriented and this has helped me achieve many milestones. I am a compassionate individual and this has facilitated my work as being Clerk. In continuing to be the Essex County Clerk, as always, I will challenge myself and my staff to set new goals. For more information, please visit www.chrisdurkin2010.com.
MISSION STATEMENT: The League of Women Voters®, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
The Montclair Area League, which encompasses the communities of Bloomfield, The Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Clifton, Essex Fells, Glen Ridge, Little Falls, Montclair, Verona and West Orange, needs members (men and women) to act as observers at meetings of their local school boards and municipalities and to report back issues that can be explored in candidates' forums and questionnaires or that may become the basis for League studies. To become a member or learn more, visit the LWV-Montclair Area website atwww.montclairarea.nj.lwvnet.org.