Ex-clerk reflects on controversial term
For Hoytsville resident Sue Follett, helping Summit County transition through "massive and sweeping" elections reform was a lesson in hard knocks.
"I’m proud of our 2006 election," Follett, the county’s former elected clerk said.
She left office after one term as a new administration took over this week.
Delegates ended the Democrat’s bid for a second term last spring before former County Clerk Kent Jones, a Democrat who was defeated by Follett in 2002, defeated third-party candidate Kathy Dopp last November to regain the post.
"It has been an honor and a privilege for the last four years to serve the citizens of Summit County," Follett said in a telephone interview Friday.
Opposition from critics of the county’s new touch-screen voting machines and business owners who say draconian rules for business licensing were enacted under her watch, likely contributed to last year’s political demise, Follett acknowledged.
"I believe I’m a person who will investigate and do my best to make the best decision that I can," she said, adding that under her watch counties were forced by the federal government to comply with the new Help America Vote Act. "We had massive changes in the election process, the biggest change in about 40 years."
Meanwhile, tempers flared when the county complied with state laws that require fees for business licenses reflect the costs for government to issue the permits.
"There are bound to be lots of unhappy people there," she said about business owners whose fees increased as a result of changes made by her administration. "It’s hard to have some changes."
She doesn’t regret, however, taking on the controversial issue.
"Knowing that you are in the political arena, anything can happen," Follett said. "It would be a shame if we don’t continue forward in the county clerk’s office for the better of the citizens."
Summit County needs an elections division, she insisted.
"Personnel always has been an issue," Follett said, adding that her requests to hire more employees were denied by the County Commission.
She encouraged commissioners to begin streaming live video of their meetings on-line for residents unable to drive each week to the courthouse in Coalville.
Restoration of historical county documents that began under her watch must also be completed, she advised, adding, "we have probably 85 to 90 percent of those historical documents now available on the Internet."
"Both of those things are very, very important for the citizens," said Follett, who before she was elected worked for five years as former Summit County Sheriff Fred Eley’s secretary. "Genealogy is just fascinating and a lot of people do it and want to know the history of their ancestors, and some of the books are literally falling apart."
After the transition in two years to a new form of government in Summit County, when councilors could have the option to appoint a clerk, Follett says she hopes voters will still be able to elect the clerk, who is the county’s chief elections and records official.
"I believe there is better representation for the people by the people if those people are elected," she said, not ruling out campaigning for office herself in the future. "Government kind of gets in your blood and we have sweeping change in form of governance in a few years, so, who knows?"
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