I’ve known Gwen Tidwell for close to 25 years, and am immensely proud of the hard work and dedication she has shown our community. She is respected, honest, and has a solid, documented and proven track record of success, reliability and effectiveness in discharging her duties as Criminal Court clerk. Here are but a few reasons she should remain as Hamilton County Criminal Court clerk:
Gwen has 20 years’ experience as the Criminal Court clerk
She manages the Hamilton County Criminal Clerk’s Office – open 24/7, with 64 employees who maintain the records for the five General Sessions Courts and the three Criminal Courts, and handle the paperwork for over 50,000 new cases each and every year.
She has completely computerized the office's records, including digitizing all public records.
She has created user-friendly access to court records by putting all criminal case information online and providing computers at the office for anyone to use. This open and full public access to the courts' records ensures reliability and accountability of the court records. As a result, the Hamilton County Criminal Clerk’s Office is now a model used by other municipalities in Tennessee.
She has increased the efficiency of the criminal court clerk's office, and also that of other offices by sharing the digitized criminal data and documents with other criminal justice agencies such as federal, state and local probation offices, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, the Sheriff's Department, and the Chattanooga City Police Department. This gives these other departments full access to criminal histories and records without having to contact the clerk's office or request paper copies.
She was the first to begin a Delinquent Collection Department which is completely self-supporting and uses no tax dollars at all, while recognizing that criminals do not follow the law or rules, are often unemployed and unemployable, and are frequently incarcerated and thus unable to pay even if they were willing to pay these costs. Because of hard work, her office has the highest collection percentage among criminal courts in the state – more than Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.
She has saved tens of millions of dollars by being the first criminal court clerk to attempt to collect, and to actually collect, money from persons convicted of crimes and ordered to pay fines and court costs. The savings is because the collection efforts have allowed her to not use any tax dollars for office salaries for 15 straight years.
In addition to saving these millions of dollars above, she has collected over $70 million for state and local government to use for public safety and public education.
She sought out and received federal grants to staff a designated domestic violence court which has improved awareness, information, and resources available for victims.
She instituted measures to allow her offices to accept payments by credit and debit cards, which increased the ease and convenience for the public.
She opened an office at the jail that allows police officers to complete their paperwork there instead of transporting their prisoner to the clerk’s office in the courthouse, preparing the necessary paperwork, and then transporting the prisoner back to the jail for booking. This adds a layer of protection both for law enforcement professionals and the public, because the prisoner is now in a secured area while the officer prepares the paperwork to complete the arrest. Another safety aspect is that this allows our uniformed men and women to return to their duties quicker in order to protect and serve us.
She was a part of the Blue Ribbon Committee that set up the magistrate system we currently use. This increases our safety because judicial officers are now available and easily accessible to law enforcement 24/7 to issue warrants, make probable cause determinations, and set bonds.
She is a single mother of three young men and a lifelong resident of Hamilton County; a graduate of Hixson High School, University of Tennessee, and University of Tennessee Law School; a licensed attorney who practiced in the criminal and sessions courts which she now manages and administers.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Gwen will to continue using technology to improve the clerk's office, to continue collecting money from those convicted of crimes, to continue saving tax dollars, and to continue running the most efficient office possible! Hamilton County citizens, we should be honored she wants to continue to serve our community. Let’s show up at the polls and show our appreciation and confidence in her. Hamilton County citizens need her to continue as Criminal Court clerk.