When longtime Richmond County Clerk of Courts Elaine Johnson announced she was retiring this year after four decades of working in the clerk’s office, it wasn’t a huge surprise.
After all, Johnson’s husband, Maj. Gene Johnson of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, decided to retire in 2014 after serving this county for almost 50 years.
If two people in Augusta deserve some rest and relaxation, it’s definitely Elaine and Gene Johnson.
But Elaine Johnson has served as clerk of court for almost 25 years.
Elaine Johnson has served as clerk since 1993. Prior to becoming the clerk, she was the chief deputy clerk for the office from 1988-1992 and has been employed by the clerk of court since 1973.
Now, that’s a legacy.
Change will be tough for a lot of judges, attorneys and staff that have relied on Elaine Johnson’s efficiency over the years.
While Johnson was clerk, the office digitized most all of the county’s court records for juvenile court, state court and superior court.
In Richmond County Superior Court, the court has exclusive constitutional authority over felony cases, cases regarding title to land and equity, declaratory judgments, habeas corpus, mandamus, adoptions, name changes, divorces, child custody and child support enforcement.
The clerk of court is responsible for handling all those types of cases.
In addition, the clerk is responsible for recording deeds and maintaining the chain of title to all property in the county.
Those duties impact everyone in Richmond County.
The clerk of court is also charged with the responsibility of attending all court sessions for superior, state, and juvenile courts and to file and maintain accurate records of the proceedings.
Needless to say, after Elaine Johnson’s almost 25 years as clerk of court, her office is a well-oiled machine.
Therefore, there are some major concerns over who might take over that role.
The two candidates vying for the position are Ernest Thomas Jr., the chief investigator for the Richmond County State Court solicitor’s office, and Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s administrative assistant, Hattie Holmes-Sullivan.
So who will win?
Well, this is the second time that Sullivan has run for the clerk of court’s position.
Sullivan started working in the clerk’s office back in 1978, but left in 2005 to become an assistant to State Court Judge David Watkins.
She ran against her former colleague Elaine Johnson back in 2012 and was handily defeated. Johnson won with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Sullivan has worked as Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s administrative assistant since he took office in 2013.
As for Thomas, he is a 24-year veteran of the Richmond County State Court solicitor’s office, and many local attorneys are vocally supporting him because they believe he truly understands the “nuts and bolts” of the judicial process.
But people know the power of Roundtree and his supporters, so some in the local legal community are concerned that Sullivan may win and the clerk’s office could be turned upside down.
And it is saying a great deal that Elaine Johnson attended Thomas’ announcement that he was going to run for clerk of court.
Was it an endorsement of Thomas?
You don’t stand there smiling for the cameras if you’re not behind a candidate.
So, here is the message to voters: If you like Elaine Johnson’s leadership and her commitment to her office, vote for Thomas on May 24.
If you don’t like how the clerk of court’s office has been run for almost 25 years, vote for Sullivan.
It’s as simple as that.