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A Republican candidate set on improving the customer service experience in the York-Poquoson Circuit Court Clerk’s office is challenging the incumbent clerk, who said under her watch, customer service is excellent.
The two candidates — Incumbent Kristen Nelson and Poquoson resident Lawrence “Tu” Ritter — were invited to speak Wednesday at the York-Poquoson Bar Association’s meeting.
Ritter’s election points were conveyed through a representative, who said Ritter had been called to an urgent matter and was unable to make it to the meeting.
The representative, Nicholas Proffitt, said he and Ritter have spoken to various lawyers, business professionals and community members who have had negative experiences in the clerk’s office, which led Ritter to run for office.
“We want you to get in, we want you to get what you need done and get out. You don’t want to spend all day in the courthouse,” Proffitt said.
Ritter, who has no experience in a court clerk’s office, has a degree in management from Christopher Newport University which, according to Proffitt, is essential to managing the duties of a circuit court clerk’s office.
Ritter owns an electric company with his wife and has been in the mortgage business at Monarch Bank for 10 years.
On his campaign website, Ritter lists his goals: to accelerate and implement new technology, to cultivate dignity and respect to all visitors and staff, and to initiate a youth crime prevention program.
At the meeting, Proffitt said Ritter also wants to improve staff training at the courthouse.
Several members of the York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and private attorneys who frequently use the clerk office’s services were present for the meeting and disagreed with Profitt’s assertion of bad customer service in the office.
Nelson, who spoke second, said her office has never received a bad review, and she continues to encourage excellent customer service with her staff.
Nelson has served as circuit court clerk for almost a year and has 18 years of experience in the office, serving as deputy clerk.
During her time in office, she has implemented the case imaging system, which allows staff members to view criminal and civil cases in an electronic format, thereby reducing the time it takes to retrieve the paper file around the office.
She also partnered with the York Preservation Society to preserve marriage licenses over a 10-year span from the 1700s and is currently reformatting older records into digital formats.
In November, she saved the clerk’s office thousands of dollars by switching from a private vendor managing land records to the Virginia Supreme Court, she said.
She is also currently working on employing a new jury management system that allows jurors to fill out questionnaires online.
“I’ve been making changes,” she said. “I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I think I’m going to run for clerk.’ It was something I’ve been trained to do.”
Nelson has been endorsed by York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs, Commonwealth’s Attorney Benjmain Hahn, Dels. Brenda Pogge and Gordon Helsel and state Sen. Tommy Norment, among others.
The two will face off June 9 in the Republican primary. The winner will appear on the ballots for York County and Poquoson residents in the Nov. 3 general election.