Court clerk candidates square off

By Jeff Linville -
Neal Brendle, left, and Teresa O’Dell prepare to answer questions at a candidate forum Saturday. - Jeff Linville | The News

The Republican primary race for the clerk of court seat boils down to heavy experience versus a fresh perspective.

Incumbent Teresa O’Dell began as a deputy clerk in 1981 and worked there for 14 years before resigning to run for the clerk of court position. She ran three times for office before finally winning in 2014, edging out Democrat Becky Brendle by 147 votes.

Now she runs against another Brendle, Neal, the son of longtime Dobson town commissioner Lana Brendle.

The first question of the night asked about an article in The Mount Airy News quoting a memo from O’Dell that her staff would be required to help with campaign work.

• As county employees are paid by taxpayer dollars, do the candidates feel it is okay to have them work on a candidate’s campaign?

O’Dell said she apologized if she made anyone feel uncomfortable because of that article. She said she misspoke in that memo. In a staff meeting she said she talked about being in and out of the office over the next month. She felt it was her sole responsibility to get out and tell the constituents what good deeds have been done through the office.

“My girls, I have never asked them to do anything politically in three years,” she said.

Brendle said he spent 17 years as a magistrate and always followed a judicial code of conduct. He said as an elected official he would continue to follow a code of conduct.

• The clerk of court is responsible for a lot of record-keeping and must maintain good relationships with law enforcement and judges in the county. How do you feel about your relationships?

Neal said that before he ever worked as a magistrate, he knew many people in law enforcement because his father worked in that field. Then his job has helped him develop many good friendships with police and area officials since 2000.

“Awesome,” O’Dell answered. Her office has a common goal in mind to get cases through the court system as soon as possible.

She mentioned several achievements under her watch and added, “We have established security at our door for the first time in our history, and I’m so proud of that accomplishment.”

• Similar to a question asked of the sheriff candidates, considering the limitations of department budgets, how would you prioritize the needs of your office?

“I don’t have a budget. I deal with no money,” said O’Dell. That comes through an office in Raleigh.

“The top resource you have is your workforce,” said Brendle. The importance of that resource isn’t easily measured — it’s more than just their salary; consider what impact they have on the office and on the public with their interactions. Also he would look at ways to utilize technology to the best benefit, as well as work to streamline procedures and protocols in place. Maybe consider some flexible scheduling.

• Considering you are running as a member of the GOP, will you be an active member in the local Republican Party?

Brendle said all the members of the local party can look at his work history and see what he stands for. “My faith is going to guide me through every decision I make.” He said he would like to be a part of this local party. “You can see by the turnout this is the Republican Party in action.”

O’Dell said she has been a Republican since 2000 and is proud to say she was the first Republican clerk of court in county history. She said she will continue to be kind, considerate and be sympathetic to victims of crime.

• Closing Statements

O’Dell said she came from simple beginnings. She said she had ample experience in the judicial system including the past three-and-a-half years in this office.

Brendle said as a magistrate he kept a piece of advice from his father in his mind. Everyone is just one wrong decision from sitting on the other side of that desk. That has allowed him to have empathy for the folks who have come through.

He added that he has presided over thousands of criminal cases, plus possibly another thousand civil cases, and also has performed many marriages.

Neal Brendle, left, and Teresa O’Dell prepare to answer questions at a candidate forum Saturday. Brendle, left, and Teresa O’Dell prepare to answer questions at a candidate forum Saturday. Jeff Linville | The News

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.