Four candidates vie for circuit court clerk

Editor’s Note: The following is a series of questions and answers taken verbatim from a Lebanon Democrat questionnaire recently filled out and returned by each candidate in the Wilson County trustee’s race. The Democrat will publish the responses from candidates in this and other races leading up to the Aug. 7 general election.
Jul 11, 2014
Bud Brandon
Debbie Moss
Felicia Plumlee Hale
Jeff Dickson

With Circuit Clerk Linda Neal’s decision not to seek re-election, four candidates – Bud Brandon, Jeff Dickson, Felicia Plumlee Hale and Debbie Moss decided to make a run for the Wilson County circuit court clerk position in the Aug. 7 election. 

Brandon is a 1979 graduate of Lebanon High School and 1983 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. Most recently, he was a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Wilson Central High School. 

He is married to Bonita Brandon. 

Dickson is director of the 15th Judicial Drug Court program, which covers Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale and Wilson counties for the past 12 years. He also worked in the Wilson County court system beginning in 1984 as a juvenile probation officer. 

Dickson graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in criminal justice administration. He attended Nashville School of Law for two years. 

He’s been married to Lisa Horton Dickson, director of YouthLinks in Wilson County Schools, for 30 years. The couple has two children, Josh Dickson, a La Vergne firefighter, and Katie Dickson, a Tennessee Tech graduate in pre-veterinarian science and biology. 

Hale is a 16-year employee with the circuit clerk’s office. She graduated from Lebanon High School in 1985 and received an associate degree in accounting from Excell Business College. 

She’s an ambassador with the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, member of the Mt. Juliet-West Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club and Wilson County Fair board. 

Hale is the middle daughter of Dallas and Lillian Hallums Plumlee. She has three daughters, Ashley Rowland Guy, Amber Rowland and Alivia Rowland Pendleton. She also has four granddaughters, Makenna Grace Guy, Paisleigh Hope Guy and Hillary Elizabeth Rickaway and Scarlett Faye Pendleton. She has two siblings, Natalyn Plumlee Slaughter and Darin Plumlee. 

Moss currently works for Wilson County as employee benefits director, where she has worked for seven years. Prior to that, she worked seven years in banking, seven years in public works for Mt. Juliet and three years as zoning administrator for Mt. Juliet. 

Moss is a Mt. Juliet High School and Nashville State Technical Institute graduate. 

She is married to Charles Moss, and the couple has two daughters, Samantha Moss-Smith and Sydney Moss-Seat. 

What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you? 

Brandon: It was both. I want to continue serving Wilson County as a public servant and a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. 

Dickson: Initial decisions regarding my run for the office of circuit court clerk grew out of conversations with my family, friends and professional peers. Discussions focused on my past work history and current position as the director of the 15th Judicial Drug Court program. My undergraduate degree in criminal justice administration, two years of law school and my experience working with each of the courts has helped me to develop a “skill set” of education and experience. This “skill set” is the same set of qualifications needed to manage the clerk’s office; therefore, this is the next step in my professional growth. 

Hale: I have worked in the office of the circuit court clerk for 16 years. It has been my goal, and a longtime dream, to hold this office. I have respected the current clerk, who hired me, and chose not to run against her. However, now that she is retiring, I am asking for the voters to allow me to fulfill that dream.

Moss: I have always had an interest in seeking public office and have been encouraged by others to run for circuit court clerk.

What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?

Brandon: I want to let the public know who I am and the many qualifications I bring to the office. 

Dickson: The most important issues are meeting the needs of the Wilson County court system, meeting the needs of the citizen consumer utilizing the court system in an efficient, expeditious and courteous approach and working with the Wilson County Commission for the betterment of the circuit court clerk’s office. All of these areas are equally important, staff management, budget management and improving technology. The circuit court clerk’s office must be user friendly; everyone who enters the office as a consumer will receive courteous and knowledgeable service. This is achieved through training and effective management. I have a proven record in departmental management.  

Hale: We must continue to advance the office in the areas of technology and to improve public access to the court records, especially for people who are not able to visit during office hours and who don’t have easy physical access to the office. 

Moss: I will make the circuit court clerk’s office efficient and productive. I will cross train employees and collect outstanding fees. I will improve communication not only in the office, but also between departments. I will maintain a good rapport with other elected officials and the public.

What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?

Brandon: I have a record of proven success with skills and a background of managing a budget. I am also connected to every community in the county and know the importance of teamwork. 

Dickson: I would encourage people to get to know me and talk with others in and out of the legal system. I would encourage everyone to compare qualifications and seek out information about my job performance. I would further ask that voters consider my other contributions to the county, such as the additional funding brought into the county due to my grant writing abilities. These grant funds were used to make improvements to county buildings, the Wilson County Fairgrounds new barns and the Adult Learning Center program for the Wilson County School System.  In addition, I established the 15th Judicial Drug Court program, the first of its kind in Wilson County.

Hale: My opponents are all fine people, but none of them possesses the hands-on experience that I have in this office. If you the voter, are looking to hire the most qualified person for this particular position? Who would you hire?  Would it be someone with 16 years of experience working there or someone who has never worked in the clerk’s office and doesn’t know the daily responsibilities of the office?

Moss: I present the office with a fresh perspective and I am not so deep in politics that I can’t observe all aspects of the position. I have an outstanding work ethic and organizational skills.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?

Brandon: I have a competitive spirit with discipline in finishing everything I begin. 

Dickson: I have a four-year degree in a related field, criminal justice administration, post-graduate work at Nashville School of Law, management experience in local government, management experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors, experience in budget development and management, a 12-year history of working with the Wilson County Commission, experience in office management, including the development of policy and procedures, experience in staff management, progressive supervisory experience dating back to 1984 and knowledge of grant funding opportunities and management.

Hale: The day I take office, I’ll be able to roll up my sleeves and go to work without any loss of continuity of service. I’m ready to make positive changes, needed improvements and to move forward from day one.

Moss: I have versatility. My government experience spans many different areas. One of my strongest attributes is the ability to solve problems.

How is your experience – or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?

Brandon: I have 30 years of leadership with strong communication skills. I am also able to motivate groups of people, solve problems and deal with the public in a professional and accountable way.

Dickson: I consider both my educational and work experience to be a plus for the position of circuit court clerk. My degree and post-graduate work is in legal services and administration. My career path reflects continued growth in managerial responsibilities across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. My professional experience is concentrated in administration and making programs work. I take pride in my work ethics, people skills, effective management and proven work history.

Hale: I’ve had 16 years of on-the-job training. I know how the office works, and I know the positive changes that can be made to improve the operation of the clerk’s office. I have continually sought opportunities to become more knowledgeable about the duties and responsibilities of the circuit court clerk during my 16-year tenure as a deputy clerk.

Moss: I have years of government experience dealing with employees, business owners and the citizens of Wilson County.

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