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CLERK OF CIRCUIT COURT // DeBlaker slides into a fifth term

Clerk of Court Karleen DeBlaker won a fifth term Tuesday, defeating two Republican challengers by getting more than half the votes cast in the primary election.

Jane Olds, a former clerk's office employee, came in second with just over half as many votes as DeBlaker. Don Leonard, a Clearwater accountant, was third.

"I'm thrilled," said DeBlaker, who faced no Democratic opposition. "I get a big kick out of the job."

The clerk of the circuit court operates the 580-employee office that keeps court and county government records and serves as custodian of county funds.

Olds, who worked at the clerk's office almost 24 years before resigning to run, said she has no regrets.

"I wouldn't have traded it for anything," she said.

Olds, 46, has criticized DeBlaker, 65, for her management style. Olds said DeBlaker's "dictatorial" manner has caused office morale to plummet and the level of customer service to falter. But DeBlaker has said that morale in the office is fine.

"I don't plan any changes," she said. "The way I look at it is, it's working."

This was DeBlaker's eighth political campaign. She served three two-year terms on the Clearwater City Commission and ran for clerk for the first time in 1980, beating two opponents. She has had opposition only one other time since then, in 1988.

DeBlaker said she is reluctant to ask people for campaign contributions, and this year was no exception, according to reports filed last week. She spent $39,000 of her own money on the campaign.