Four candidates seek to replace Jefferson County Clerk Kathy Marston when she retires at the end of 2018. Only one has experience in the clerk’s office, and that makes Kate Zemke stand above the rest.

In addition to Zemke, candidates include Brian Crow, 48; Charity Dubisar, 43; and Yoonsun Reynolds, 35. While each of them would probably make a decent clerk, they don’t have the direct experience in the work the clerk’s job requires.

As the name implies, a county clerk in Oregon is the county’s official record-keeper. The office keeps track of everything from deeds to dog licenses. In addition to keeping records, county clerks are charged with conducting most elections in Oregon’s 36 counties, a task that includes, among other things, validating every signature on every ballot turned in.

It’s a job for a person who get pleasure from making sure that all the steps are followed, all i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Zemke, 59, began working in the clerk’s office in 2001 and currently is the chief deputy clerk, the recording specialist and records keeper. E-filing has made that job less labor-intensive than it used to be, she says.

There also have been improvements in the way the county handles elections, the other half of the clerk’s responsibilities, Zemke says. While she currently manages records, she’s also served as elections clerk through one election to get a better handle on the job.

An election, she notes, is a big production, involving a variety of people and tasks. Those ballot signatures must be checked, a job that’s been streamlined in the past few years. Ballots with signatures that don’t pass muster are set aside and voters notified so they can come in and prove they’re who they say they are. In addition to handling mailed ballots, the clerk’s office is responsible for retrieving those handled at various drop-off sites around the county.

Zemke is running, she says, because she wants to see the office continue to be successful. Her nearly two decades on the job have given her the kind of training that cannot be duplicated in a matter of weeks. If she receives 50 percent of the vote or more in May, she’ll avoid a runoff in November, and voters should see that she does.

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