The two women running for Johnston County clerk of court both say their experience makes them the better candidate.
Republican Michelle Ball and Democrat Michelle Denning are deep into in long campaign trail that each hopes ends in victory. The winner of the election will replace outgoing clerk Will Crocker, who has held the post for more than 30 years. Crocker announced in 2013 that he would retire at the end of his current term.
Ball, 44, is a native of Micro. She’s worked for 22 years as a paralegal for Spence and Spence in Smithfield, helping with personal-injury cases, real-estate closings, wills and some traffic matters, among others. She said her job puts her in contact with the public on a daily basis.
“I am accustomed to Johnston County citizens walking in the door and saying, ‘I need help with this,’ ” Ball said.
She also spends a lot of time in the clerk’s office and knows the system. If elected, she said she wants to work every position over the first month of her term.
“I feel like until I work their job, I can’t help them be more effective or efficient, if that is what’s needed,” Ball said.
Ball has a degree in English from Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, in Wilson. She worked in advertising after graduating, before taking the position with Spence and Spence.
A parent of four, Ball said she is part of a very busy family, one that is always out and about.
“The most important thing about holding a political office is knowing the people you are serving and being in tune with their needs,” Ball said.
In the Republican Party primary earlier this year, Ball defeated David Ford and Keith Branch. She took 51 percent of the vote.
Denning, 36, had no primary opponent. She grew up going to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in the Cleveland community but lived across the county line in Garner.
After graduating from Garner High School, Denning went to Meredith College, where she earned degrees in speech communication and political studies in 2000. She went on to attend Regent University’s School of Law in Virginia, graduating in 2004.
Denning moved to Johnston County after graduating from law school, and in 2006, she started working as an attorney for the N.C. Industrial Commission in Raleigh.
“As an attorney, I understand the functions of our clerk’s office and the responsibility of managing a law office,” Denning said. “Not only have I practiced law and served as an advocate, but I have also, as a special deputy commissioner, decided cases. That’s a big part of what our clerk of court does.”
Denning said she’s interested in maximizing the resources of the clerk’s office and preparing it for technology upgrades.
“The big thing for me is having a professional office; that’s important,” she said.
Both candidates say they want to maintain the open-door policy that Crocker created during his tenure as clerk.
The clerk’s race won’t be decided until Nov. 4. However, one thing is already clear: Ball or Denning will be the first female clerk of court since Nora P. Southerland in the 1960s.