On Monday, former Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles confirmed he will make a bid to become the fifth candidate for the county’s clerk of circuit court seat.

Pyles, who represented the Pastures District on the Board of Supervisors for more than 20 years, said he will turn in his paperwork with the signatures of at least 125 registered voters to the Augusta County Registrar’s Office on Tuesday.

Once the signatures are validated to become an independent candidate, he would join Republican Steve Landes and three other independent candidates — Miles Bobbitt, Supervisor Carolyn Bragg and Lauren Griffin — on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Bobbitt is a Greenville-area resident and executive director of the Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program; Bragg, of Stuarts Draft, is in her second term representing the South River District on the Board of Supervisors; and Griffin, a paralegal for the Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, also lives in Stuarts Draft.

Landes, of Weyers Cave, is leaving the 25th House of Delegates District he has served since 1996 to seek the clerk’s job. He secured the Republican nomination when no else came forward.

They are seeking to fill the seat vacated by Carol Brydge, who in February announced her early retirement as clerk of court. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Brydge’s eight-year term through 2023.

As a special election, independent candidates for the office have until Friday to get on the ballot, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

The clerk’s office, which has an operating budget of about $7 million, is responsible for maintaining records kept by Augusta County Circuit Court. In addition, it is charged with preserving thousands of historical court records that date as far back as the mid-18th century, when Virginia was still a colony.

Before announcing his intention to run for clerk, the 71-year-old Pyles had been a regular contributing opinion columnist to The News Virginian. He will not be contributing while campaigning for office.

Pyles, in an email statement about his decision to add his hat to the already crowded ring, said he believes none of the candidates have given any real thought to how best serve the people of Augusta County.

“Where is the vision? What do they hope to achieve and how?” asked Pyles, who lost his bid for re-election on the Board of Supervisors to Pam Carter in November 2017.

Pyle, citing his 22 years as a supervisor, said his time on the board had been among the most productive years in the Pastures District and for the county, while the real estate tax rate of 58 cents per $100 of assessed value was still the same when he left as when he was first elected in 1996.

Since then, he said, the board has “seemed to have lost its collective mind and what it means to serve a conservative, small government population.” Pyles said the county is now planning “to spend $70 million on a courthouse in response to the people turning down a $45 million courthouse.”

If elected, Pyles said, he would be “fighting from a position of responsibility to stop the squandering of the people’s money.” He said his top priority would be securing court records and improving courthouse security for officials, jurists and witnesses. He also said he would add from his clerk’s salary one more staffer to aid with the existing load and allow for more services.

{span}Augusta County has budgeted an annual salary of about $138,000 for the clerk position.{/span}

Pyles also vowed to work with veterans groups, first responders and police to determine a fitting individual honor for all the people in uniform who gave their lives in service to Augusta County. In addition, he said he would take greater advantage of electronic communications to answer questions from the public and create easy access for residents throughout Augusta County.

Also, Pyles said he would stop charging for concealed weapons permits by funding the fees from the clerk’s pay.

“If we think we are safer with this compliance, we should not charge for it,” he stated.

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