Invitations were issued via email. Wilson declined to participate. Following are Neal's responses to CCN's questions, after a brief introduction to her background.
Betty Neal of Berryville has been the district clerk of the Berryville District Court for the past 25 years. She is originally from Green Forest and is a member of the Larimer family.
Neal moved to Berryville after she married her husband, Richard, 38 years ago. Together they have a daughter, Sabrina Doss, and two grandsons, Cooper, 13 and Talon, 11.
QUESTION: What are your reasons for running?
ANSWER: I see the Circuit Clerk position as a challenge and I like a challenge. I have the knowledge to show Carroll County how efficient this office can be if it is run with automation and efficiency that the Circuit Court should be run with. I will bring that knowledge to this office.
QUESTION: What are your specific goals once in office, if elected?
ANSWER: To automate and organize the Circuit Clerk's office by increasing public online access, pursue collection of outstanding fines and costs, improve court operation, provide excellent customer services and work well with the Quorum Court.
QUESTION: What problems do you see at the Circuit Clerk's office currently that you would like to build on, an how do you plan to do so?
ANSWER: The main problem I see is a lack of automation. Automation is available to all Circuit Courts in the state of Arkansas and the funds are there for this upgrade. The funds have been sitting there for a number of years, but you must have the knowledge and drive to learn -- that I have.
QUESTION: How can the Circuit Clerk's office further modernize in order to increase revenue for the county and help the court system keep track of convicted criminals and their fines and fees?
ANSWER: Automation again. Everything stems around automation. The Carroll County system has grown so much that it can no longer be an organized office without computers. You cannot use a paper system and cover all that needs to be covered without error. With automation, time pays and jail terms will be tracked and flagged if a payment is missed or a person in jail does not make contact with the court after being released to reset up time pays. There will be no room for errors or court dates being overlooked.
QUESTION: What do you plant to do about digitizing -- or putting into computer/electronic form -- the warrants and other documents that have long been kept in written record books and whose lack of digitization have cost the county an estimated millions in revenue?
ANSWER: As soon as the system is installed, all current activities will be entered, that is part of the training. As an example: As warrants are served all the information is entered into the system. I realize it will take time to enter everything, but it can and will be done and it will be so efficient and organized that you will wonder why it wasn't done years ago. When the staff has a few extra minutes they can enter the information and eventually get everything entered that needs to be.