Next week’s primary for the Franklin County Clerk’s office pits a newcomer to the political arena against the incumbent with 12 years of experience.
Stephen Pennington Jr. is running against the current clerk, Debbie Door, in the Tuesday, Aug. 5, Republican primary election.
The Missourian met with both candidates to discuss why they are running, their goals
The winner in the primary will be sworn in as clerk next year. There is no challenger in November’s general election.
Door, 1015 Clearview Road, Union, has served as county clerk and the county’s chief election official since 2002. Previously she had over 32 years’ experience working in the banking industry.
Pennington is medical equipment technician and driver with Provider Plus, Washington. He lives at 3891 Highway 50, Beaufort. Pennington received an associate of arts degree from East Central College and is seeking a bachelor’s degree through Central Methodist University.
The county clerk has two roles — administration and elections.
The administration division handles payroll, accounts payable and works closely with the county auditor, serves as secretary to the county commission, works with the different taxing entities in the county on setting tax rates and licensing and serves as the county’s custodian of records.
The elections division is responsible for conducting elections, checking petition signatures, handling voter registration and training election judges.
There was a bill introduced which would phase out electronic machines that does not leave a “paper trail.”
There was new equipment first used in the April election which replaced the former election machines that were almost 10 years old.
County commissioners purchased the new equipment for $414,322 last year.
Pennington was critical of the purchase of new voting equipment.
“I think the machines are necessary to get, but they should be replaced only when they break down,” he said.
Door said the new equipment was needed to comply with new election laws, and many machines had maintenance problems.
“They were 9 years old and starting to fail,” Door said. “I felt I could get the most trade-in value at that time.
“In my opinion it was the best time to do it,” she added. “It was an appropriate expenditure.”
Both Door and Pennington agreed that voters should show a photo ID to vote.
“If we are really trying to be transparent, then I think we need a form of ID,” said Door.
Pennington agreed that an ID law should be in place.
“I think we should have it (law),” said Pennington. “I don’t see a negative. (IDs) are fairly easy to get and are not exactly costly.”
Following are more positions and comments about the office from the two candidates:
Door, 62, is married with two children and three grandchildren.
Door said she is seeking her fourth term in office to stay on the front lines of election reform.
“There is so much going on with election reform that I like being involved in making a difference on how this reform is resolved,” she said.
Door noted that Gov. Nixon signed an early voting law that she would like to see amended.
“It still can be changed and I’d like to be able to play a part in that,” she said.
On the administrative side, Door said she has implemented many new software programs to make information available online to be better viewed by the public.
“It is easier for those who can’t come to a meeting to see what was approved or denied and to see how commissioners voted,” she said.
Door added that there is more software being added.
“We are in the process of that and we’re taking one step at a time,” she said. “We would like to have that fully integrated and create new transparency.”
According to Door, her experience will be key in successfully running the clerk’s office for four more years.
“My experience in management and with personnel will help over the next four years,” she said.
She added that her office has been building on 12 years of technology which she would like to continue to grow.
“I am tied into networks to make sure technology is up to speed and we are not wasting money,” Door said.
“With what I have learned over the past 12 years, I am right where I need to be,” she said. “This is a viable office for the citizens of Franklin County.”
Door further added that her staff is a major part of her success as clerk.
“I hired these people because of the way they work as a team, and that has benefited the voters of Franklin County,” she said.
Door has been involved in many community and professional organizations.
She is a member of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, Washington, and the church’s stewardship board, president of the Washington Public Service Authorities, a past president of the Washington Rotary Club, past president of the Missouri Association of Clerks and Election Officials, past president of the Mercy Foundation Board and various other boards and organizations.
Pennington, 27, is married with a young daughter and he is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Beaufort.
He said a primary reason he is seeking the county clerk position is because Door had been unopposed.
“I don’t like people running unopposed,” he said. “I don’t feel like people have a choice.”
Pennington is a former supervisor of the production third shift with The Missourian and that experience inn management would be important in the clerk’s position.
“I feel confident that I could do it,” he said. “I know with any elected job you have to run the office with integrity and fairness,” said Pennington.
The county clerk is the county’s chief election official, which Pennington says is a very important part of the position.
“I really believe that voting on elections is the most important thing we can do,” he said. “If you (oversee elections) unfairly it is against what the Constitution is based on.
“I don’t necessarily feel either party (Democrat of Republican) is right, so I would not take sides.”
Pennington said he would push for changes to the county commission meeting times in order for better attendance for residents.
Commission meetings typically are held Tuesday mornings.
“Not a lot of people show up and I’d like to see that change, but that is up to the commission,” he said.
Pennington added that the clerk’s role as record keeper is a key role in Franklin County government.
“(The clerk) must know the subject matter and has to type up (minutes) and get them on file,” he said. “They keep track of everything going on in the courthouse.”
Pennington added that he would conduct those duties honestly and with integrity.
“You have to make the right choices, even if they are not easy,” he said. “I am a hard worker and I will learn every aspect of the job as fast as I can — I will learn what every position does in case they can’t be there.”
“I was raised with the strong belief in the Constitution, that elected officials should be statesmen to serve the people,” Pennington added. “I believe that is what I can do.”