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Terra Carter-Smith running for the office of Circuit Clerk

By Kendra Hennis 
In a special four-part section, I will be interviewing all of the candidate hopefuls vying for the office of Circuit Clerk. To ensure complete fairness, all of the same questions were asked to the candidates before any interviews were released and I have given their exact responses on the matter. Please enjoy and don’t forget to vote on March 17. 

Where are you from?

“I graduated from Arcola in 1995 and have lived with my family in Tuscola for eighteen years.”

What is your current occupation?

“I currently handle the office management, marketing, and advertising for Custom Real Estate Inspections.”

What is your educational background?

“Some college, I did not complete college due to a car accident. I also have my insurance license and I have taken several updated classes. I have also completed many management training courses for work.”

What do you know about the court system?

“I know that it has to be well ran. You have to be very thorough and specific about the things that you’re doing. I don’t have any experience in the Courthouse, however, I believe that management experience as well as working with people (that I do have a huge background in) will go far in the office that I’m running for.” 

What do you understand to be the duties of the Circuit Clerk’s office?

“We process the payments coming in for traffic citations or any fines, child support, adoptions, some small claims. I look at the office as basically you are the secretary to the Judge.” 

Do you have any experience that relates to the office of Circuit Clerk?

“Management- I have managed many businesses in retail as well as my parent’s trucking company where we handled multi-million dollars. We have to do a budget, so I have been able to budget our stores, and I’ve been an award-winning budgeter, if you will. I have been able to keep payroll down and still produce numbers.”

Why did you decide to run for this position?

“I had someone approach me and say “hey, we’re not too excited about our candidate choices, what do you think about running?” and so my husband and I discussed it for forty-eight hours and we prayed about it and we decided, you know what we’re gonna go for it. This is a wonderful opportunity. I have served the public through volunteering and I have been out there as customer service, doing whatever I could to help the community. I just feel like this is a continuation of that, just in a different in office.”

Why do you feel that you’re best suited for this position?

“I feel that I am the best one suited for this position because I can run on a budget. I can make sure that people get their vacation times. I can make sure that they have their time off that is needed for things like doctors appointments. I am used to running such a tight ship that I am creative and I’m not afraid to put in the extra hours to assure that they get their time that they need off. If that means me staying late a couple days a week that’s fine, or coming in on a Saturday to catch up to make sure that everybody is getting that time off, I have no problem doing that. In retail, we had to definitely juggle hours to make sure it happens, because we have always had to work on a smaller staff than what is needed.”

What changes would you make to the office?

“I believe that they have a very good system in place. I don’t feel that right away any changes should be made until I get in there and I know what the position is one-hundred percent and once I learn everything and get into the nitty-gritty we may tweak some stuff. But, Julie Mills has run a very tight ship and she’s done a fantastic job. I don’t feel like there are a huge amount of things that need changed, just tweaked a smidge because everyone’s personality is different.”

Do you think that technology will play a big part in the Circuit Clerk’s office moving forward?

“Yes. Right now a lot of things are handled by hand, because they only have e-file in one office, on the traffic and criminal side. So eventually when the time comes and it’s a mandatory to change over, that’s when we’ll have to spend the budget on that. But until we have to make those changes, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to spend money that is not needed.”

How do you define public service and how will it play a role if you are elected as Circuit Clerk?

“I define public service as someone who gets out in the community, not afraid to volunteer or be a face of whatever office you’re in and be approachable and kind to everyone. To be seen as somebody who genuinely cares about the public. I believe in the Circuit Clerk’s office, when they come in there for whatever reason they’re in there, whether its for paying child support or a ticket, I want them to come in there and be treated fairly, without me or my staff judging why they’re in there. I want people to come in and meet people with a smile on their face treating them equally with respect. I believe you need to have high integrity when you are serving the public so that they can trust you and we can develop relationships in the community.”

Are there any special skills you possess that separate you from the other candidates? 

“I have worked with many different organizations throughout my time. I have worked with the Chamber of Commerce, different festival boards, and I am currently on a board with our softball team. So I know how it is to work with different people all the time. I believe you need to have someone who is a team player. Someone who genuinely loves people and not looking at this like it is a j-o-b, but somewhere I can go to make it my family.”

Ron, Terra’s husband- “The special skills that Terra has that separates her from the other candidates is a lifetime of public service from the age of fourteen. A lifetime of management experience, organizing budgets into the millions of dollars, organizing pay roll, and taking over different stores that she’s managed that were in disarray, and has completely re-organized and turned multi-million dollar operations into profitable organizations by streamlining the operation. 

Is there anything else you would like added?

“I believe in this office that its about honesty, integrity, being genuine, and not putting on a face for this position. I’ve said this phrase and probably will throughout this entire campaign, I’m just being me. I’m not going to pretend to be somebody I’m not, and I believe this will just be an extension of who I am, because I love serving people. I love volunteering and I love doing things for the community. And being a part of such a wonderful staff would just verify that part of me.”

Ron- “When someone came and approached Terra and asked her if she would be interested in running for Circuit Clerk, we discussed it and said “that’s a good public service job, Julie Mills is retiring and has done a great job, why don’t we consider it.” I did a quick Google search of how much the Circuit Clerk paid, I found that it paid between $20,000 and $32,000 a year. We discussed it and said it’s not about the money, it’s about serving the public. When she went to pick up the paperwork, after we prayed about it extensively, and processed the paperwork, and we found out that the job pays considerably more than that. We were on board irregardless of the salary. It’s not a paycheck.”

Terra- “I literally picked up the paperwork the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the last day you could pick it up, and we had to gather all our signatures and get everything in by Monday morning. I would say within a week, we had signs in the ground. We hit the ground running and we have hit it full speed and we are not about to slow down until March 17.”

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