Brenda Rowe knows elections come with the territory when you’re in public office – but she’s in the middle of a big project right now.
“I would like to thank the people of Wise County for giving me this opportunity and ask them for their support in allowing me to continue to do the job,” she said.
She’s seeking a second term as Wise County district clerk in the Republican primary.
Since Rowe took office in 2011, she has downsized the office’s paper records 72 percent, under a mandate from the Texas Supreme Court that all records must be filed electronically by July 1, 2015.
After getting bids of over $400,000 to have the records scanned and filed digitally, she decided to do it in-house at a fraction of that cost.
Rowe is a lifelong resident of Wise County. She grew up in the Rhome area and graduated from Northwest High School in 1979. Since 1981, she has lived in Paradise and both of her sons graduated from Paradise High School.
Prior to being elected district clerk, she worked with JP courts for 23 years.
“I decided it was time, threw my hat in the ring and won,” she said. “I would like to continue. Being in county government for so long, and knowing how that works, has helped me tremendously.”
One thing she knew going in is that time, manpower and money are all limited – but you must do it anyway.
“It’s up to you to get it done efficiently and effectively,” she said. “The job is not yours – it belongs to the people. You’re a public servant.”
The clerk is the custodian of records for the district court – criminal, civil and family, and keeps records for the county courts-at-law as well.
“I have a retention period on each piece of paper and each case that’s filed,” Rowe said. “I can store more digitally, but I still have paper files. I believe in that because I think you have the right to come in and see the original judgement.”
Rowe’s office also has records prior to 1951 that are now considered historic documents. She has sent two of the oldest books to be restored.
“When they come back, they’ll be like they were just written on,” she said. “They’ll look almost brand-new.”
That’s her goal, she added – to preserve the old while implementing the new.
“It’s a lot more than just being the clerk,” she said. “It’s preparing for the next generation, the next leap.”
Her staff includes six full-time clerks plus a part-time employee who is working on records. They’ve all undergone extensive training to be ready for the new system.
“When I started with the county in 1979, there were no word processors. We were using carbon paper in typewriters. I’ve gotten them the technology they needed, the training they needed, and the confidence they needed.
“Come July 1, 2015, we’re completely paperless,” she said. “We’re getting ready to take that giant leap.”
And she’d like a chance to see it through.