Incumbent Valerie Ueltzen seeks to keep county court clerk seat

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
Incumbent Valerie Ueltzen is seeking re-election as Pottawatomie County Court Clerk Nov. 3.

Recently PAVE (Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education) hosted a candidate forum for several local and state level races on the Nov. 3 ballot.

One of the races to be decided next week is for Pottawatomie County Court Clerk. Incumbent Valerie Ueltzen and candidate Bud Jeffrey are seeking the seat.

Jeffrey was unable to attend and participate in the event due to having surgery that day.

Ueltzen was about her priorities, most successful venture and why she believes she is better suited to the role.

First, Moderator Ronnye Sharp asked Ueltzen what her top three priorities would be if she is re-elected to the job.

Ueltzen said one of her main goals when she became court clerk, was to digitize the county's court records.

“Our court records go back to the beginning of statehood,” she said. “As you can imagine, we have a lot of court records.”

She said her office is in an old building without a lot of space, so storage is a big issue.

She said last year a group of court clerks fought really hard to get a law passed to allow them the opportunity to have a preservation fund to digitize the old records.

“That is my No. 1 goal, to make sure those old records will be preserved in a manner to extend well past my grandchildren,” she said.

Another priority, she said would pertain to budget issues.

“I don't have a lot of control over that,” she said, “but working with the budget I am given and trying to do the best I can, not only is the state struggling financially it has an impact on the course of our system, as well.”

Sharp's next topic inquired of Ueltzen's most successful venture — and has she ever been in a position where she was responsible for making decisions affecting the public.

Ueltzen responded with an example from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's not been a situation that any court clerk has ever had to deal with before,” she said. “I had to tackle it head-on.”

The courthouse was closed for three months, she said, and again a few weeks ago.

Figuring out a way to continue to serve the public without the public being in the building, was a new challenge for the court clerk.

“It was not easy; our office does numerous things, like filings for attorneys and issuing marriage licenses, processing passports,” she said. “All of these things require the public in our office.”

She said a system had to be created to continue functioning.

“One of the fun little things we did was utilizing the old Midfirst Bank building across the street, commissioners were so generous in letting us use that building,” she said. “We were able to still issue marriage licenses during the the pandemic, and to some people that may not seem important, but for those that wanted to get married we had the capability to continue issuing marriage licenses by utilizing the drive-thru bank.”

She said that was a way her office was able to spread a little joy during the difficult time.

Sharp's last question was what does Ueltzen think makes her better suited for the office than her opponent?

Ueltzen said one word — experience.

“I started 16 years ago in the courthouse; I worked upstairs in the file room, pulling files for the judges,” she said. “I then was able to work in the court clerk's office filing probate and guardianship matters, and then transferred to traffic and started taking court minutes in the courtroom.”

After that, she said she was asked to become a bailiff for Chief Justice Douglas Combs. Five years later she became bailiff for current District Judge John Canavan.

When the at-the-time court clerk decided to retire Ueltzen applied for the position and finished out the year that was left in the term.

“I have seen every aspect of the judicial system; I have the experience,” she said. “I have the knowledge and I have the passion for this position.”

PAVE

The city broadcasted the forum live on the city website and on its cable channel, and recorded it as well. Ronnye Sharp served as moderator. 

Since there wasn’t a live audience allowed, questions were submitted in advance.

PAVE is a non-partisan voter education group that welcomes new members.

Watch news-star.com for Q&A responses from other candidates in other races over the next few days.