By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
As the local election campaigns draw to a close, county clerk candidates are spending the final days gearing up for Tuesday and knocking on those last few doors.
Both candidates are affiliated with the Republican party. This is Bobby Blakley’s first run at a political office as he faces incumbent Gary Barton to earn the people’s vote in the May 22 election.
A 41-year-old elementary school principal, Blakley said he feels he will face several issues if elected as Whitley County Clerk.
“The first and foremost issue I will face is to help revitalize integrity within the public service realm. Appearance alone of favoritism or nepotism weakens the confidence and expectations of the people you vow to serve,” Blakley said in his candidate survey. He went on to say that while such practices may not be illegal, he feels they “can lead to more serious allegations or misconducts and is a sure sign that policies and procedures are not what they should be.”
“Once elected, I will complete a thorough analysis of operations to identify ignored policies and ethics or possible biased procedures. I think this is a great way to begin a new public service era,” Blakley said.
Another issue Blakley said he will face is accurate record keeping and reporting of both court records and monetary transactions within the office.
“A clerk assists the judges by preparing and maintaining court orders, subpoenas, pleadings and court dockets. Stricter docket control would assure that every case goes to trial or disposition. These and the many other responsibilities can only be achieved through unwavering employee attendance and teamwork. My leadership will determine the quality of teamwork, office efficiency, and public opinion of the circuit clerk’s office,” Blakley said.
His third goal will be the unification of the Corbin and Williamsburg offices.
“Regular meetings and visits between the two offices will be scheduled once I conduct observations, interview colleagues and learn the full range of managerial functions of the office,” Blakley said. He added that he feels this will improve not only employee teamwork, but efficiency and enhance the ability to accommodate and communicate effectively to a variety of public personalities, noting it should be a “requirement for public workers to conduct business efficiently and deliver services with respect, courtesy, empathy and sensitivity, but also have an accountability system set up to ensure the practice of these public office principles.”
Blakley said he felt his past experiences of working with the public had provided him with skills and principals that are important to an elected public office.
“Working with the public for the past several years has taught me that learning to do a job well is critical, but the principles of public service are equally important; integrity, accountability, honesty and selflessness. If elected, your expectations of a public office will be honored, valued and exceeded,” Blakley said.
Blakley is currently employed as the principal of Pleasant View Elementary. He was educated at the Whitley County High School, before going on to attend Cumberland College and earning his bachelor’s degree. He also holds a Union College-master’s degree and Rank I Degree.
Blakley is a member of the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators, Kentucky Association of Elementary School Principals and the Relay for Life. He has participated in numerous volunteer opportunities including the American Cancer Society and Whitley County Youth Programs.
He is married to Theresa Lawson Blakley. They have three children, Jessica, Olivia and Emily. Blakley is the son of Wanda Fuson Blakley and the late Jesse “Buck” Blakley.
Fifty-seven-year-old Incumbent Gary Barton hopes to win another six-year term as county clerk. He identified several issues he would face and how he would handle them if re-elected on May 22.
One of the main issues a county clerk faces according to Barton is providing the best possible services to the county’s citizens. He said he feels the county needs an “experienced clerk” to handle its needs. Barton has been the county clerk for the past 25 years.
“I feel like I’m a little too young to retire; I like going to work every day and there is still a lot I want to accomplish as clerk,” Barton said.
He cited the continuing budget cuts by the state government as a reason to cast the vote in his favor come election day.
“It will be of great importance to insure the best possible services will be provided to our county and its citizens. An experienced clerk is needed to facilitate those concerns. I have worked with our legislators and personnel within the administrative office of the courts and feel very comfortable talking with them about any needs or concerns our county faces,” Barton said.
He also cited the county’s drug problem as an important issue to this elected office as it affects everyone.
“There is no family that has not been affected by drugs. I will work diligently with the families, our judges, law enforcement and any and all agencies to try to improve the devastation caused by this epidemic,” Barton said.
Evolving technology was another issue that Barton said he felt strongly about.
“Technology in our court system keeps evolving. It is important that our area is equipped with the latest and best equipment and services,” Barton said, pointing out he has worked with county and state leaders to insure that Whitley County is up to date with not only a “beautiful new judicial center, which our citizens can be proud of,” but also the latest technological services available in both the Williamsburg and Corbin offices.
According to Barton, this is an on going process and will need to be addressed on a continual basis. One such technological evolution in June will be a newly implemented Driver Licensing System in both the Corbin and Williamsburg offices. He said he is also currently moving towards a paperless filing system.
“As your circuit court clerk, I have and will continue to work my hardest to make sure Whitley Countians are not left behind or forgotten in any technological advances,” Barton said.
Educated at Williamsburg High School, Barton received a bachelor of science in business administration from Cumberland College. He is a member of the Williamsburg Tourism Commission, Cumberland Valley Area Development District and the Circuit Court Clerks Legislative Committee.
Barton has four children, Nikki, Brooke, Brett and Danni, and two son-in-laws, Jamie Kyser and Chase Steely. He also has five grandchildren, Clay, Casey, Cashtyn, Lacey and Jarius.
“I enjoy working with the people of Whitley County and hope to continue to serve them as county clerk,” Barton said.