FAYETTEVILLE — The two candidates for Washington County circuit clerk agree accessibility of records is a priority and disagree about how accessible the office is now.
Kyle Sylvester, the incumbent and a Republican, will face Democratic candidate Adrienne Kvello.
The primary duties revolve around filing, docketing, attending court, issuing notices, managing records and reporting to the state Administrative Office of the Courts, according to the county website.
Sylvester said he has worked to create a more transparent and accessible office since his first day in office. He was first elected in 2012 and has served three two-year terms.
Anyone who wanted access to online records in January 2013 had to have a subscription and pay a fee.
“My first week in office, I got rid of that,” Sylvester said.
Also early in his tenure, Sylvester added a domestic relations specialist, who walks people through the process of getting a protection order. This increased the number of people who completed the process, he said.
He partnered with the assessor and tax collector to create a “one-stop shop” for access to real estate-related documents.
Washington County records judgment liens from court and real estate databases, which few if any other county in the state still does, Sylvester said.
“We make it easier for the title companies, banks and real estate agents so they don’t have to go pouring through the court documents,” he said. “It’s something that we don’t have to do and other circuit clerks ask why I still do it. It’s few more steps, but it’s helping them do their business more efficiently, which brings more business into the county, which benefits the people in the county.”
The office switched in June to the state’s electronic filing system for criminal and civil filings. The employees are still getting use to the process, but it is more efficient, Sylvester said.
“I don’t know how much more we can be accessible, because everything is online now,” Sylvester said, “but I am always talking to other counties, other circuit clerks and finding out what they are doing in case we are missing something, though I don’t really think we are, because we are at the forefront of the state.”
Sylvester wants to start a project to help veterans be able to file their discharge papers at more convenient locations than just the county courthouse.
Kvello said Washington County is lagging behind neighboring counties in technological advancements in filing and record keeping. Accessibility is something she is focused on, she said.
For the majority of her legal career, she has worked in real estate and mortgage law and said the current system “is not easy to access at all.”
The office needs to do more to guide people through the process of going electronic, she said, because many judges have trouble pulling up documents and older pending cases sometimes do not show up in the electronic system.
“It’s a lot of little things but things that could definitely be improved.” Kvello said. “I think going paperless is obviously a good goal, but we need to make it more accessible for our judges who have large case loads.”
She wants to increase access to forms and legal advice for the many residents that go through the courts without a lawyer, she said.
Kvello would create a system to notify property owners when liens are placed on their property, she said, as she has dealt with fraudulent claims in her work.
“If someone is doing something fraudulently, you should know,” she said.
It’s time to get people into county office who listen better and can bring fresh ideas, Kvello said.
The circuit clerk earns $109,447 a year. The salary is based partly on Sylvester’s length of service and state law.
The election is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 22.
Democrat AGE: 40 RESIDENCY: Fayetteville; Grew up in Fayetteville and has been back for four years. EMPLOYMENT: Self-employed as a lawyer; worked at Nationstar Mortgage as a litigator and is licensed to practice law in three states.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown University; law degree from University of Houston.
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None.
Republican (Incumbent) AGE: 49
RESIDENCY: Johnson; lived in Washington County nearly all his life. EMPLOYMENT: 22 years in law enforcement including 17 years as a supervisor. EDUCATION: Graduated from Elkins High School; attended University of Arkansas and John Brown University.
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Six years as Circuit Clerk.
Ashton Eley can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @NWAAshton