Monday, January 30, 2012
Once again, it appears a Stephens County elected official will resign mid-term and let the County Commissioners appoint their replacement. Connie Elam, a Democrat, has served as Stephens County Court Clerk since 2003 when Priscilla Harper resigned mid-term and she was appointed by the County Commissioners. Elam did not have an opponent in 2008.
In the Duncan Banner article announcing her ‘retirement,’ Elam said they had been ‘cross-training’ in the Clerk’s office to insure a smooth transition. That’s code for "my Chief Deputy will be given the job. "
This practice is not just confined to Stephens County. This has been a trend in county government throughout the state of Oklahoma. An elected official retires before their term expires and their top aide is appointed to complete the term. They run as an ‘incumbent,’ with their own little band of campaign volunteers- the office staff. The staff have some ‘skin in the game,’ because they serve ‘at will’ so their job is on the line. The advantage of incumbency is huge! Incumbents win about 98% of the time.
I believe elected officials at all levels should complete their terms- whether it be in office or in prison! When you quit, you lose creditability. Governor Sarah Palin should never have quit mid-term. That shows a lack of character and commitment. To quote Winston Churchill, “Never, Never, Never Give Up!”
An elected official at all levels should complete their term and then let the voters decide who their replacement will be. Former County Commissioner Frank Kelly did that in 2008 and the general election was decided by less than 100 votes. Kelly did the honorable thing- he let the voters pick his replacement.
If the three Stephens County Commissioners appoint a Court Clerk replacement, you can bet it will not be a Republican. They are all Democrats.
The State legislature should consider a bill that would require a special election be called by the County Commissioners within 90 days of the retirement, death, or resignation of a county elected official. This ‘passing the baton’ by county elected officials reeks of good ole boy politics and deprives voters of the right to select our county officials.