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Hillsborough Clerk of Court: Times editorial board recommendation
Solid choice in this universal election for county records chief
 
In the the Hillsborough clerk's race, one candidate stands out.
In the the Hillsborough clerk's race, one candidate stands out. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published July 24, 2020|Updated July 24, 2020

Hillsborough Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller

The clerk is the official record keeper for the county, responsible for maintaining everything from court, county commission and marriage records to the rolls for prospective jury pools. The clerk also plays an auditing role over county operations. The clerk is elected to a four-year term and paid $170,011 annually. Because only Democrats qualified for this race, the Aug. 18 primary is a universal election open to all voters.

University primary: Cindy Stuart

Cindy Stuart, 2020 candidate for Hillsborough County Clerk of Circuit Court
Cindy Stuart, 2020 candidate for Hillsborough County Clerk of Circuit Court [ Courtesy, Cindy Stuart campaign ]

Pat Frank is retiring after a celebrated five-decade career in public life, and she is leaving the Hillsborough County clerk of court’s office the same way she left the school board, county commission and state Legislature — in much better shape. The question for voters in this open primary is which Democrat is best suited to build on Frank’s achievements. Cindy Stuart’s strong management style, attention to detail and open nature make her a perfect fit.

Stuart, 53, was first elected to the Hillsborough County School Board in 2012 and is completing her second term. Her background in computer management was a plus for the school board, where she brought an exacting eye to operations in the seventh-largest school district in the country. Stuart was visible on school campuses and brought first-hand experiences to the policymaking level. She gets into the weeds to make the bureaucracy run right, and her pragmatic, fix-it mentality is essential in a court system with many moving parts.

Stuart wants to create a more paperless environment at the clerk’s office, furthering Frank’s efforts in digitizing public records. She would expand security and access to online documents, enabling people to gather official information more quickly and conveniently without the hassle of navigating downtown. Stuart would make the screening process for jury pools more efficient, helping to ease the cattle call that amounts to a huge waste of time for potential jurors. And she would follow Frank’s example by surrounding herself with strong, senior managers. Her results-oriented approach and disdain for drama would set high office standards from the top.

Her opponent, Kevin Beckner, 49, served on the Hillsborough County Commission from 2008 to 2016. As a commissioner, he was a fiscal conservative who promoted a range of social justice, public safety and youth development issues, and he was a leading voice against a plume of bigotry prevailing at the time. Beckner’s professional background as a financial planner, and experience running the county’s Civil Service Board, give him a firm grasp of county government and the clerk’s office responsibilities. Like Stuart, he would expand digital services at the office and explore new efficiencies. Beckner also wants to make it easier and cheaper for those in minority and hard-to-reach communities to access services.

Stuart, though, would bring a fresh perspective to County Center. As a School Board member, overseeing Hillsborough’s largest employer, she is used to managing a huge workforce and the varied interests and personalities of a large organization. She is uncommonly engaged in her work and comfortable in the public eye. Stuart can challenge conventional thinking without upturning the ship, and her sense of accountability is vital for an office that must get the details right. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Cindy Stuart in this open primary for Hillsborough County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller.

Candidate replies

Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. Send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. July 27 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news