Jennifer Gibbs, a 38-year-old certified public accountant who vows to "restore trust" in the clerk's office and Charles Baker, who has 30 years of experience as the office's deputy clerk of court, made the Aug. 5 runoff for Hall County Clerk of Court in a three-person Republican primary race Tuesday. It is the first run for elected office for both.
Former two-term Hall County Sheriff Bob Vass, 74, missed the runoff, his second straight defeat in local politics after unsuccessfully running for state senate in 2000.
Gibbs collected the most votes, 3,553, for 43.2 percent, to Baker's 2,682 votes, or 32 percent. Vass had 1,974 votes for 24 percent. A candidate must collect at least 50 percent of the vote plus one to avoid a runoff.
"It feels pretty good, but I think we've still got a few more weeks of hard work ahead of us," Gibbs said of being the top vote-getter in the race.
"I think people are ready for that office to have a fresh perspective," she said, "and I think my business experience is definitely paying off. I've campaigned with the slogan that I plan to restore trust to this office, and that still holds true."
The clerk collects traffic fines, manages grand jury and traverse jury lists and summons citizens for jury duty. The office also processes passport applications, a service that became a source of controversy for Wood.
Wood chose not to run for re-election after 24 years as clerk when he faced criticism for taking $86,000 in passport application fees as personal compensation in addition to his annual salary of $122,000. The practice is legal.
All three candidates to succeed Wood said they would remit all fees collected from passport applications to the county's general fund.
Baker, 54, has touted his experience as a supervisor in the office and familiarity with the clerk's varied duties in his campaign.
"I'm glad I made the runoff and I'm looking forward to running three more weeks ," Baker said Tuesday.
Baker retired from the clerk's office in December 2007 after 30 years in the office, the last seven as chief deputy clerk.