Editor's note - This is the latest installment in a series of stories taking a look at services, public offices and infrastructure we rely on every day but may not fully understand.
Former state representative and state senator, Kevin Engler is in his first term as county clerk after winning office in November of 2018. He follows longtime County Clerk Mark Hedrick, who retired at the end of December.
“It’s the most complicated county job," Engler said. "Not because I have it, but because it encompasses a wide variety of things. First and foremost you do the elections. You’re the election authority. You run the elections. You keep the voter rolls. You make sure that they’re purged and kept up to date, so you don’t have more people on the voter rolls than are living here.”
Unlike other county offices, the clerk’s office has some form of interaction with every county employee at some point.
“We do payroll for the whole county,” he said. “We do workman’s comp, we do the liability insurance.”
The county clerk also has to deal with damages and liabilities involving employees and property.
“When a car gets wrecked, we’re the one that has to turn it in and deal with the insurance company,” he said.
One of Engler's primary duties is to officiate county meetings and record the minutes.
“We run the county commission meeting,” he said. “When someone’s appointed to a committee, that’s done by the county clerk. We have to do the paperwork on that.”
All licensing and registration of businesses in the county has to be done through the clerk’s office.
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“We do all the licensing, whether it’s notary public or liquor licensing or building licenses,” he said. "Notaries have to be sworn in here.”
Engler sees himself in a somewhat different role as the incoming county clerk. He's attempting to cut costs and improve efficiency.
“What I’m doing as an outsider coming in is examining if we are doing things in the best practices way,” he said. “For example, payroll needs to be electronic rather than issuing (paper) paychecks.”
While most county employees are in direct deposit payroll, 15 of them continue to receive a physical paycheck. The issue recently went before the commission.
“The others all get copies of a check," he said. "I’ve talked to four people about it — no one opens the envelope. We have $1,000 in envelope and printing costs a year, plus everybody has to handle it. Those are questions that I don’t answer. I bring it up to the commission.”
Engler’s main priority is upgrading the county’s online capabilities by encouraging all the offices to publish forms and explanations of application processes on the county’s website.
“We’re going to have a portal, so that people can get online,” he said. “If they want to see what the process is to get a notary license, here you can download the application, here’s what you have to have, you have to be bonded, etc. Then when you come in the office, it cuts your process to literally two minutes to get it done.”
Engler stresses that as the website grows and carries more information, there will be less confusion and phone calls about all of his office’s functions.
“That will also allow us to answer questions in a proactive way on the elections,” he said. “If you want to see last week’s minutes, you won’t have to Sunshine [Law] them. We’ll be putting them on [the website] for three years.”