Two months remain before the Hamilton County general election and already Vince Dean's effort to replace our Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell is showing signs of desperation.
His speech last week to the Pachyderm Club shows he is willing to use any "red meat" political tactic, including personal attacks and innuendo, as campaign tactics. It's "strategy" intended to divert the public's attention away from Dean's lack of knowledge about the operations of the office he is seeking.
As evidence of his unfamiliarity with those operations, he implies that Gwen Tidwell is for gay marriage. This is a ridiculous and outrageous non-issue because the Criminal Court clerk has absolutely nothing to do with marriage or marriage laws or marriage records. I neither know nor care whether she is or isn't, Just as I don't know or care whether she is for or against any of the other hot button issues that have nothing to do with the Criminal Court clerk's office.
Dean questioned whether Tidwell has modernized the office. He noted that in the last weeks she had asked the County Commission for "approval to accept credit cards in the office," and added that the "other larger cities in Tennessee have been accepting credit cards for years." He is either unaware that Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell's office has been accepting credit card payments for years, or he deliberately misrepresented the facts.
Dean underscored his lack of knowledge with the office's day-to-day functions by claiming he wanted to improve how the office staff interacts with the public. This implies that he considers the staff rude and inefficient. And, in case anyone missed the insult, he explained the staff could (and should) be taught to treat customers like teen-aged fast food workers are taught.
I am an attorney who does business with Ms. Tidwell and her office, and I have done so for well over 30 years, both as a previous assistant district attorney and as an attorney in private practice. Therefore, I am familiar with the Criminal Court clerk's office prior to Ms. Tidwell and after she was elected. I know she has improved the office and continues to do so. I know that she runs her offices in a very professional manner. I know that her employees are all well trained, able and willing to assist everyone politely and efficiently. Over the years I've worked with clerk's offices across the state and Ms. Tidwell's office should be used as a model to which others should aspire.
* * *
I was at the lunch presentation of Vince Dean, candidate for Criminal Court clerk. There was no such "desperation" as claimed by Mr. Lanzo. Unfortunately, he has apparently relied solely on the media for his information.
The facts are simple from Vince Dean's comments: 1) The news media in Chattanooga reported just three weeks ago that the 20-year incumbent is just now having staff enter the 21st century to allow credit/debit cards be used to pay fines in the court office while more than $50 million in uncollected fees have accumulated. 2) In response to the Democratic incumbent's claim to be "conservative," Mr. Dean read an article quoting verbatim the incumbent's personal remarks on social issues that she volunteered. At no time did he state she supported gay marriage. 3) In listening to the speech Mr. Dean gave, it was obvious to everyone in the room, he was very familiar with the office and its functions.
The failed record of a 20-year incumbent is demonstrating the opportunity and need for new leadership. It's that simple.