At long last, the judges at Shreveport City Court have narrowed down the field of twenty-four candidates for the Shreveport City Clerk position. Long time clerk Virginia Hester, who had served in the clerk’s office for over forty years, died in February of this year. This position has been open since that date.
Shreveport City Judges Charles Kelly, R. Lee Irvin, Pammela Lattier and Sheva M. Sims select the clerk. In March, Chief Judge Kelly appointed a committee to interview candidates for this position. Committee members were Ben Politz, Bill Byram, Reg Abrams, Vicki Warner, Price Barker, Al Childs and Zelda Tucker; Tucker was the appointed chairperson.
The four finalists who have interviewed by the judges are Terrell Myles, Doug White, Robert Shemwell and Marilyn Smith. All finalists are attorneys with the exception of Smith who has been acting as interim clerk since Hester’s retirement. Terrell and Smith are Afro-American; White and Shemwell are Caucasian.
Many consider Terrell Myles, energetic and in his 40’s, to be the front runner. Myles has a well earned reputation for being a hard worker; he is well respected for his temperament and reputation for fair play as the chief prosecutor in City Court. Myles was unsuccessful in this run for a city court judgship against Lattier; hopefully he will not suffer any consequences from his political effort.
Doug White has sat as judge pro tem for several years in Shreveport City Court, and he is a frequent “user” of that venue with his legal collections practice. White, who is 63, almost dropped his hat into the senate race between Lydia Jackson and Greg Tarver, –deciding not to run at the last minute after discovering that Jim Slagle had qualified for that race.
Shemwell, age 70, retired as the clerk of the U.S. Western District court. Shemwell ran a tight ship as clerk in the federal court; how much of that experience is transferable to the city court system is an open question. Judge Kelly has expressed an “interest in modernizing” the court system in today’s electronic age and Shemwell’s past experience is a plus for him despite his age.
Marilyn Smith has hands on experience in the clerk’s office for over 30 years. Whether or not this is a plus or minus is an open question because the efficiency of that office’s operation has steadily declined in recent years, including the interim with Smith as acting clerk. Her relationship with the existing staff could be a critical factor in this process.
The clerk’s office has an excess of 50 employees and its budget exceeds $2.5 million. The clerk’s salary is set by the judges; Ms. Hester was paid in excess of $115,000 in her final years. The job description states that the clerk has overall responsibility for planning, organizing, controlling and directing local administrative and operational activities of the court.
There is no retirement age for the clerk, and the new clerk will most likely be at the helm until as long as he/she so desires. The Court is going through a significant time of transition with the recent seating of Judge Sims, and the retirement in the not too distant future of Judge Kelly. That, along with substantially increased workload and the demands for electronic judicial administration, will place a substantial responsibility on the new hire.
It’s time for a new face in the Clerk’s Office –and in fact, it’s long overdue. The decision by the Shreveport City Judges will probably be the most significant they will make in non-courtroom matters during their respective terms. Hopefully, careful, considered reason, and not politics, will prevail.