When Clay County residents first approached Tara Green about campaigning to become the area’s next clerk of the circuit court in 2012, she rejected the idea.
“I denied it for around eight or nine weeks,” Green said. “It’s a role I never would’ve considered before.
But their persistence paid off.
Now, not only has Green worked as Clay County’s Clerk of Court for the last seven years, but she was elected to serve on the executive committee of the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers association.
And Green was recently selected to be president-elect, taking over in the fall of 2020.
As president-elect, Green said she sees a number of improvements needed for clerk of court offices across the state, starting with necessary funding.
“How do we make sure that we’ve got sustainable money to fund these offices, and it’s not reliant on one or two things that remain volatile?” Green said.
Green said funding comes from criminal activity — a large chunk is from traffic tickets. But she said the number of traffic tickets given out across the state has decreased drastically.
“[Traffic tickets] are going to go down a lot more with a change in the way vehicles are used, or not used,” Green said. “And we’re not going to be proponents of increasing traffic fines or tickets. That would be a bad position for clerks to be in, obviously.”
A lack of state funding in previous years deepened the cuts that left a number of the county offices understaffed and overstressed. Funding has become more consistent statewide lately, Green said, due to legislative changes.
“A lot of it is policy related,” Green said. “Silly policies that wouldn’t allow us to keep some of the money we raised…we’re now on track that hopefully in the next four to five years, our funding will be there to fully support our offices so that we can provide the services we need to provide to our citizens.”
Court clerks provide marriage, birth and death certificates, secure officials records on land and mortgages, and maintain historical archives.
The Clerk of Courts also acts as the county’s comptroller when they want to make large purchases, meaning the clerk is an extra pair of eyes to make sure purchasing policies are followed and the sale goes smoothly.
Green believes another area for improvement is the shift from paper records to digitized ones, which are available much quicker.
“You kind of have an older regime of clerks in an old clerk world,” Green said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think what you’ll see in clerks’ offices is we are fast and furiously moving in a high-tech direction, and the individuals who are running for these offices are coming in with more of a sophisticated business background so they can step in and make these changes.”
Green said the executive committee is always looking for ways to take another step toward better technology.
“Things that we’re looking at is something you’ll never think of in a clerk’s office, like artificial intelligence,” Green said. “Things that will help us provide faster [service], but yet protect the information we’re responsible for.”
Despite her statewide advocacy role, Green isn’t concerned with her ability to remain a strong clerk for Clay County.
“I have to be more cognizant of my time,” Green said. “Clay County will always be my priority, obviously it’s what my number one focus is. But it’s really easy for me, because I’ve been at the state level for going on five years now.”
Since taking over as the Clay Clerk of Court in 2012, Green took on the role of the comptroller, helped launch the Clay History Festival, and she oversees Clay County Teen Court.
Green also helped lead a Clay County history public school curriculum initiative, so middle school students now have a week of class devoted to learning the past of the county.