Jan. 13—Alvarado resident Will Keeton and Cleburne resident April Long both hope to become Johnson County's next county clerk but must first face off against each other in the March 1 Republican Primary. The winner of that primary will also be the winner of the race as no Democratic candidates filed to compete.
County Clerk Becky Ivey recently announced that she does not intend to seek reelection.
Keeton and Long both cited experience and a desire to serve when asked what prompted them to seek the office.
Keeton has for the past nine years worked for the Johnson County Sheriff's Office as serves as a bailiff in Johnson County Court at Law No. 2 for Judge Steve McClure.
For 17 years before that owned an operated a transportation business.
Keeton, who describes himself as a Christian, conservative Republican and Second Amendment supporter, said that a balance of change and stability is needed in the county clerk's office.
"I think the office needs new leadership and better management," Keeton said. "I think a few things need to change such as strengthening partnerships and building better relationships with other offices in the county as well as through standing up with the employees in the clerk's office to help make sure they do the right thing and get the training necessary to be able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
"If elected, I will work to build better relationships with the employees on my behalf and make sure they have the things and training they need to do their jobs."
Keeton said his feels his law enforcement experience along with his business experience in the private sector lend the necessary qualifications to succeed as county clerk.
Through oversight of court and land records, cattle branding, passports and other duties, Keeton said the county clerk's office plays a vital role among all county departments and all residents. In that respect, Keeton said employees are key.
"It stems from training and leadership," Keeton said. "Both are needed to retain employees and that's important because if an employee leaves all that training and experience walk out the door with them and it costs the taxpayer money.
"So experience and stability count. There are some very good employees who have been there a while and some good new employees but quality training is imperative because these aren't the types of jobs where you can just throw someone in there and expect them to know how to perform their duties without the training they need."
Leadership is important, Keeton added, because as the county grows so too will demand for county clerk services.
"Right now the Census shows us at just under 180,000 people and it's probably closer to 200,000 since that Census was taken," Keeton said. "Our county is going to continue to grow as they're continuing to build homes in every county in the city. That growth is going to require more clerks over time and especially more education and leadership to help them perform their duties as best as possible."
Keeton and his wife, Carrie Keeton, have two daughters, Reanna and Courteney.
Long cites hands-on experience in her bid for county clerk.
For the past eight years long has worked for the county clerk's office, two years as clerk, two as supervisor of the Recording Section and four as chief deputy for the Court Section.
Previous to that, Long worked seven years in the banking industry in Cleburne starting as a teller and working her way up to branch manager.
Having worked in the county clerk's office, Long said, has given her an understanding and appreciation of the "grand scope" of the multiple aspects of the office and the role it plays not only within county government but also with the public.
"If elected county clerk I will utilize the relationships, knowledge and experience I have worked hard to gain over the past eight years," Long said. "I plan to continue moving this office forward and expanding services as Johnson County continues to grow.
"The duties of the county clerk; to file, preserve and maintain the integrity of all records from the court, property records and vital statistics are very important to me."
A Cleburne High School graduate, Long said that she and her parents, Randy and Holly Morris, for five years ran the Morris CarnEvil Haunted House out of Cleburne, which raised more than $10,000 for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of Long's grandfather, Jack Hodges, who suffered from the disease.