One year into Gordon’s tenure, innovation abounds at clerk’s office

Michelle Gregory Gordon might have been born for a career serving Mecklenburg County.
“Daddy (Robert Gregory) was elected as Mecklenburg County treasurer when I was born,” explained Gordon this week. “My mother, Marilyn, started working for John White-Hurst when he was part-time commonwealth’s attorney. That was when I was in kindergarten. I grew up just down the street from the courthouse, and I’d come up and visit daddy’s office, and I got to know the court people and all the other county employees.”
It was natural that in time, she would follow family tradition and work for the county. Elected in November of 2015, the one-year anniversary of Gordon being sworn in as clerk of the circuit court recently passed.
It wasn’t her first year in the clerk’s office, however. Far from it.
“I started working here in the clerk’s office and in general district court during summers and on holidays when I was in college,” she remembered. “After I graduated I started working here part-time, but it was about 40 hours a week while looking for a job. Then a job opened here. I had always enjoyed the work and the people I worked with, so I got the job.”
She began working full-time for Mecklenburg County in February of 1995.
Most of her career was spent working for longtime Clerk of the Circuit Court Gene Coleman.
“You don’t find better bosses than Gene Coleman,” said Gordon. Calling him “a true southern gentleman,” she recalled that Coleman had been her Sunday school teacher in younger days.
More than a mentor and a boss, Gordon said Coleman had been a friend, and when the time came for him to retire, he urged her to seek the position.
“Gene had talked about retiring, and he had said he hoped I would run,” she remembered. “We didn’t find out the actual date until just before he announced it. We thought we could talk him into staying another few years, but he thought it best to leave at the end of a term. He didn’t want to cost the citizens money with a special election. He thought it would be the best time.”
Asked if she had reservations about entering the race, Gordon said that she did, knowing that staff serves at the pleasure of the clerk.
“I knew if I didn’t win I’d most likely be out of a job,” she said. “But I knew it was something I wanted to do, and I loved the work. I was just thankful for the support the voters in the county gave me.”
Today, things have settled into a new routine, and the office has moved on.
“We’re doing well,” said Gordon. “We have a great staff, and everyone works hard to do what has to be done.”
The efficiency of the office has also garnered the attention of the state. Mecklenburg County has been selected as a “pilot court” for the introduction of several new systems, improving the technology and efficiency of communications and data exchange.
“We’re a pilot court for a new accounting system,” said Gordon. “The Supreme Court recruited our court and two others for a new computer-based system with more features. Everything is recorded. Any money paid has to go through the system. It has new features that make it easier for us to do our daily duties.”
Mecklenburg County was also selected as a pilot court for a new security application developed by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Previously, explained Gordon, security levels for employees was handled on the state level. The new system, she said, allows rapid changes to be made in employee security levels as needed based on the employee’s changing job duties.
Another improvement allows the local system to electronically transmit files, appeals and other information to courts of appeal, the Supreme Court and other places much faster and more efficiently than previous systems.
As of Jan. 1, said Gordon proudly, “We became a ‘fileless’ court. We no longer have paper files for criminal or civil courts. Everything is digitally imaged. It saves lots of time. You don’t have to search for documents, just point and click and it’s in front of you. It also allows us to give access to other agencies, like the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the public defender, court services, probation, judges, can all view the information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
In fact, one of the biggest changes in the court system, said Gordon, is the advanced technology being deployed in courts and records.
Not only is this useful for legal matters, Mecklenburg County is in the process of digitizing land records from the years 1934 though 1992.
“We had already done after 1994,” said Gordon. “This allows people to come in and pull records without pulling books, and they can be available online.”
The project to digitize the records got a boost through state funding, said Gordon.
“We got three grants from the Virginia State Library to restore several deed books, will books and one marriage book,” said Gordon. “We want to continue to get the library grant to continue restoring our older records, expanding land records, will records and possibly marriage records.”
Gordon said her office is also working to identify and implement other services to make dealing with the court system in Mecklenburg Count easier for the public, including taking credit cards for payments.
“We’re here to serve people, and I want people to know that our door is always open,” Gordon said. “If anyone has any questions or concerns, they’re more than welcome to contact me. The staff and I will continue to strive to provide friendly, knowledgeable service. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve as clerk, and we’re here to help.”