Former Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt entered the race for clerk of superior court in opposition to the incumbent, James Stanford, who has run unopposed since he took the position May 2001.
Kleinshmidt said he chose to campaign for office because he was approached by local residents interested in changes in the clerk of superior court office. This was an opportunity to create real positive changes in the court office, he said.
His first goal is to modernize and create a 21st century clerk office. Then he wants to make the office a more welcoming place for people who seek these services.
“One of the things that is true is if you ever find yourself in the clerks office you’re probably not having a good day,” Kleinshmidt said. “We need a level of service that recognizes that and treats everybody fairly no matter what is bringing them to the office.”
Kleinshmidt said he thinks his professional career as an attorney is is the most important indicator of his understanding of the position. He graduated from the UNC School of Law in 2000, and has worked as a criminal defense attorney and non-profit leader for almost two decades.
This is the first time Stanford has had to run in a contested election and hold a campaign since he was appointed in 2001. He said he wants local residents to understand that the office is complicated and it's essential for a candidate to have experience.
“I just intend to campaign on my record and hopefully explain to the citizens of Orange County exactly what a clerk of superior court’s office does (and) what the various responsibilities that I have," he said.
Kleinshmidt wants the clerk for superior court office to have eager and enthusiastic partners in the justice system.
“I don’t want the clerk's office to be an obstacle to getting criminal justice reforms implemented,” he said.
The clerk of superior court office is the hub of the local judicial system in Orange County because almost everything that takes place in Orange County’s court system in some way involves the office, Stanford said. Additionally, the clerk of superior court has various judicial responsibilities.
“To the extent anybody wishes to make comments or provide input to me in ways that they think that the office could be run better, I’m always open to suggestion and, quite frankly, constructive criticism,” he said.
Kleinschmidt said regardless of the outcome of the election he thinks the office will benefit from having a contested election.
“I think that having a contested race for such an important position is often not understood by people, it helps the community understand the importance of the role and actually inspires the office to work better no matter who wins the race,” he said. “We are going to have a better informed citizenry and we are going to have a more responsive office whether I’m fortunate enough to be elected or not.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.