Editor's note: This is the first of two candidate profiles for Bulloch County Clerk of Courts. Alvie Coes III is featured today. Heather Banks McNeal will be featured Friday.
Alvie Coes III, a candidate for Bulloch County clerk of courts, says he would bring an outsider's view, a fresh perspective, to that office.
"I'm going in with the mindset of, as a leader, what can I do to motivate the people that also work in the office, but also I'm going in to figure out what it is we need to do to move the office and the county forward," Coes said. "I've never been there before, so everything I'm bringing in is an outside, business approach to that environment."
Now a facility and event services coordinator at Georgia Southern University, Coes, 28, has an education in management and human resources and experience working with nonprofit organizations.
Voters will choose between him and Heather Banks McNeal in the May 20 nonpartisan special election for Clerk of Superior Court. Although it coincides with the party primaries, the special election will decide the race without sending it to November. Early voting is already underway.
Unlike McNeal, Coes has not worked in the clerk's office or other county offices, but he suggests that can be an asset.
"She has worked in the office before, so I don't know what voters would be getting differently by electing her to move back into this position," he said. "Everything I'm bringing is from a business, nonprofit perspective."
Born in Unadilla, Coes moved to Bulloch County in 2003 to attend Georgia Southern. He has two master's degrees — one in business administration and one in higher education administration — plus a bachelor's degree in business administration with a human resources emphasis, all from GSU, and an associate degree in funeral services from Ogeechee Technical College.
From August 2011 to October 2012, he served as the first executive director of the Heart & Hands Clinic. He also worked previously in human resources at Viracon and with EMD Chemicals, and has about five years experience in human resources work.
If elected clerk of courts, Coes said, he will focus on service and treating everyone fairly.
"The most important part is always remembering that you are elected to serve, that the seat you're elected to does not belong to you," he said. "No matter how many years you serve, no matter how often you're fortunate enough to be re-elected, at the end of the day that seat belongs to the people."
Both candidates were asked what steps they will take to ensure accountability and efficiency. The special election came about because of the resignation of the previous clerk, Teresa Tucker, as part her guilty plea last fall to two counts of violation of oath of public office. This followed a GBI investigation into mishandling of funds that had prompted her suspension and the prosecution of four former deputy clerks.
Both candidates say they would build on work that Charles Sikes, interim clerk since last summer, has done in rebuilding the office's efficiency and integrity.
Coes would emphasize training for staff members in financial aspects of their work. He also asserts that cross-training deputy clerks to do one another's jobs will be important for future efficiency.
"One of the areas we need to improve on is cross-training," Coes said. "That way when one of the deputy clerks that is responsible for a certain area, whenever they're out of the office, then that function doesn't have to stop."
Additionally, he wants to move the office toward accepting debit cards for payments. Currently, State Court fines can be paid online through http://bullochcounty.net, Sikes said, but the clerk's office is unable to accept credit or debit payments for its services. The office, which serves as a repository for real estate, loan, lien and other records, as well as those of criminal and civil cases, accepts cash, checks and money orders.
"I'd really like to see them move to start taking debit cards because I think that just creates a better system of checks and balances on both ends," Coes said. "Once you swipe your debit card, there's a record for you as the customer as well as for me as the vendor, so I think that definitely helps to prevent any type of loss or theft."
He would like to guide the office toward making more records available online, he said. Some Bulloch County records are available through the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority website, www.gsccca.org, by a subscription service.
But other counties are moving toward making records directly available and even allowing some to be filed over the Internet. Liberty County has reportedly agreed to be one of the first five Georgia counties in a pilot project. Coes said he is interested in learning from Liberty and then seeing what Effingham does before moving Bulloch into online records.
That is also Sikes' approach. Effingham County Clerk of Courts Elizabeth Hursey has been advising Sikes on the operations of the clerk's office.
Both Coes and McNeal say they hope, after being elected, to spend time learning from both Sikes and Hursey. In fact, Sikes has offered to continue for up to 15 days as a deputy clerk after the winner of the May 20 special election is sworn in. During that time, he said, the newly elected clerk can be in Effingham County shadowing Hursey on the job.
The two candidates agree on a number of points. Both spoke to the Bulloch County Bar Association, the lawyers' group, in March. Coes said he intends to send a survey, within his first 180 days in office, to local law firms seeking their input on what clerk's office functions need improvement.
Coes is a member of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He serves on the Willow Hill Heritage & Renaissance Center's advisory council and is second vice president of the Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP.
His wife, Jemelleh Coes, a special education teacher a Langston Chapel Middle School, has been honored statewide as 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year. They have a 1-year-old daughter, Gabrielle.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.