VERONA — With less than two months to go before the Nov. 5 election, Steve Landes is honing his message as he seeks the Augusta County clerk of circuit court’s seat.
Meanwhile, Miles Bobbit is the latest candidate for the clerk’s post to garner endorsements in his campaign to fill the vacancy created when Carol Brydge retired earlier this year.
The two men are among five candidates for the open seat to be decided in a special election. In addition to Bobbit and Landes, Augusta County Supervisor Carolyn Bragg, Lauren Griffin and former Supervisor Tracy Pyles and are on the ballot.
Bobbitt, a first-time candidate, 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 and is seeking her first elected office. Pyles represented the Pastures District as supervisor for more than 20 years before losing re-election in 2017.
All but Landes, the Republican nominee, are running as independents. Landes, of Weyers Cave, is leaving the 25th House of Delegates District he has served since 1996 to seek the clerk’s job.
On Tuesday, he laid out a specific plan for the office if elected during a press conference at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.
“It is my intention to pursue nine goals and investigate and implement these objectives if possible,” Landes said.
Those goals broadly will include bringing about innovation, preserving and promoting the county’s history and seeking input from residents on how to meet their needs, he said.
Before undertaking any changes, though, Landes said he would work with the clerk’s office staff to make sure the goals are attainable and affordable.
“I want to review this with staff ... and see if it’s possible,” he said, noting that he had been unable to schedule time to discuss his ideas beforehand with clerk’s office personnel but wanted to get his message out to voters.
Highlights of his plan include continuing the office’s work of obtaining grants through the Library of Virginia and elsewhere to preserve historic records, which date to 1745 during the Colonial era. In addition, Landes said, he would work to make those records more accessible to the public, both in the Augusta County Courthouse and as well as at other venues where they could be securely displayed.
He also said he would work in partnership with both the Augusta County Historical Society’s Smith Center and the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia proposed Crossing Gallery exhibit space. Landes also vowed to work with local schools to provide educational opportunities for students and teachers regarding the clerk’s office responsibilities and Augusta County history.
“I’ve spoken to I think every member of the school board,” he said. “They’re interested in introducing [elementary school students] to the clerk’s office and history and internship possibilities for high school students.”
Landes also said he would create a clerk’s office advisory committee, with at least two representatives to be selected from the Augusta County Bar Association, Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, Augusta County Historical Society and Augusta County Genealogical Society.
Other points of his plan include investigating what new technology might be added “to save staff time and save money,” he said.
Landes also said he would look at the possibility of offering passports in the office, a service that was discontinued in 2017. Passports, he said, have become more important to residents in recent years beyond just the need when traveling internationally.
And, he would see if the office could offer plastic card versions of the Virginia’s concealed weapons permits that are issued and processed by the Augusta County Circuit Court.
“These are aspirational goals, but things I think can be accomplished,” he said.
Last week, Bobbitt’s campaign announced he was endorsed by the clerks of the Highland County, Lexington/Rockbridge and Buena Vista circuit courts.
“It makes me proud to know that the people who know the job best know my abilities and support me for the position of clerk,” he said in a statement. “This makes me even more confident that I can use my experience in the court system and as a manager of several local government agencies to be a successful clerk of court.”
The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Brydge’s eight-year term through 2023.
The clerk’s office has an operating budget of about $7 million. The clerk’s salary, set by the Virginia Compensation Board, is at least $130,039 for counties with at least 75,000 residents during the fiscal 2020 year, which began July 1.