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story.lead_photo.caption Union County Clerk Shannon Phillips and challenger Goldie Hilburn respond to questions Tuesday at a public forum held at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium.

Candidates for Union County clerk took the stage Tuesday at a candidate forum, where they discussed their experience and qualifications for the position.

The Union County NAACP Chapter and the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce held the public forum Tuesday at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, where candidates for Union County coroner, Union County clerk, Union County judge and El Dorado mayor answered questions and talked about their platforms.

Incumbent county clerk Shannon Phillips, a Democrat, and opponent Goldie Hilburn, a Republican, both gave opening statements, which were followed by a question and answer portion, ending with closing remarks.

During Phillips’ opening statement, she said she has worked for Union County for 18 years, serving as county clerk for 10 of those years. For eight years, Phillips said she served as the payroll clerk chief deputy.

“I feel that the office that I hold is a working office more that it is a political office,” Phillips said. “I think I bring the experience that’s required to keep the office functioning the way it should to provide the services to Union County and to the employees and businesses in our local area.”

Hilburn said she has not worked for a public office, but noted that she has worked with a large company for the past 13 years, “where I have done many of the same type of work that goes on in the county office.”

“Even though I know it’s going to be a large challenge, I believe I’m up for the challenge,” Hilburn added.

When asked what the role of the county clerk is, Phillips said the office is most known for being over early voting, but added that early voting is “a very small part of what goes on in our clerk’s office.”

Phillips said other than early voting and absentee voting, the clerk’s office takes care of marriage licenses, probate, payroll, accounts payable and many other duties.

Hilburn agreed that the county clerk performs a “broad range of services.”

When asked about the clerk’s interaction with other county offices, Phillips said she has “constant interaction” with the county offices, but for two main reasons: First, Phillips said the county clerk’s office is responsible for payroll and paying the county employees and second, the office takes care of all of the claims that go through Union County.

Phillips added that she also works closely with the Union County judge and treasurer.

Hilburn added that the clerk’s office is also responsible for keeping up with all of the other office’s official documents and paperwork.

One change Phillips said she would like to see in the clerk’s office is voter registration, which is something that “would actually come from an upper level.”

“So many times people fill out voter registration information at the revenue office or different places and they might answer something a little incorrectly and it causes them to be kicked out and unable to vote on Election Day,” Phillips said. “I would like to see that reigned in a little more and handled through just our office.”

Hilburn said she believes there needs to be more training in the county clerk’s office.

“When you go in and hand in your paperwork documents, it would be nice that the ladies behind the counter could actually tell you if that document was filled out completely,” Hilburn said. “And I believe there needs to be some cross training where if one particular person is not in the office that handles that particular scenario, that one of the other ladies are cross-trained to do so.”

Phillips said she believes she is the best person for the job because she has worked in every position in the county clerk’s office.

“I know how to perform the jobs that we’re responsible for,” Philips said. “I think that is one of the most important things. I can’t lead an office if I can’t do the job myself and I personally think I have an amazing staff.”

Hilburn said she believes she is the best person for the job because she can help train the staff.

“I have also been in there when some of the other ladies did not know what their position was or how to assist and I believe that I can help them train to be able to do the job in a better fashion and meet the customers with a smile,” Hilburn said. “And I believe that if I am elected into that position, I’ll be able to do that and assist those ladies in the front.”

In closing, Phillips said, “I feel that I have served my county with honesty, integrity and I think I have always put the people first.”

“I think my staff, even though I do have some new staff that have only been with me a few months, I think they are amazing,” Phillips said. “We are not perfect and there will be days when we might not smile so much, but we’re going to take care of the needs of Union County, always.

“I appreciate the support that I’ve had over the last 10 years as official and I’d like to continue being your county clerk,” Phillips added.

Hilburn said she knows she can do the job well.

“I can be there every day and make sure things get filed and taken care of in a timely manor,” Hilburn said. “Know we need our ordinances codified, and that’s not been done. There are several things in that office that have not been taken care of in a timely manor … I’m that person that can take care of that for you.”

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or krigdon@eldoradonews.com.

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