GILLETTE, Wyo. — County 17 has sent out a questionnaire to those running in the primary election in August. The following are the answers from Pamela Merchen who is running for Clerk of District Court.
- Please introduce yourself (name and hometown) and describe your educational and employment history.
- Pamela J. Merchen
- Raised in Upton, WY and became a Campbell County resident in 1997. I have homes in both Gillette and Rozet
- I am an Upton graduate with some college from the University of Wyoming
- In 1998 I started working for the Clerk of District Court under the former Clerk, Nancy Ratcliff. I am currently the Chief Deputy under Cheryl Chitwood, having been appointed in 2015
- Why have you decided to run for this office?
- As Chief Deputy, you are required to fill the shoes of the Clerk in their absence. It is often best practice for the Clerk to include their Chief Deputy in the administrative processes, such as budget, higher levels of financials, and staffing. A significant amount of time is invested with training these duties. I understand, and have developed relationships with, the intricacies among the Clerk of District Court and the other county offices, such as the Clerk and the Treasurer. So why…
- Firstly, I enjoy what I do. I love seeing people have experiences with our office feeling satisfied, believing we have served them the best we can. I like to ensure each interaction is handled with a professional and respectful manner.
- Secondly, after working two decades in the office, much of the knowledge that I’ve acquired has become second nature. I enjoy teaching staff and empowering them to be confident and effective in what they know and do. I’d like to continue sharing this knowledge and to contribute to current and future successes of the office.
- Beyond the minimum requirements, what qualifications/characteristics do you believe a person in this office should have? How do you meet those criteria? In what ways can you improve as a leader?
- With experience comes knowledge. The office is mandated by the Wyoming Supreme Court, statutes, and rules. These are the parameters with which we must follow. It’s important to recognize we must remain impartial. I have worked in this office for 23 years and as the Chief Deputy for 7 of those years. I can carry out all duties performed in the office.
- Communication is key. The environment is always evolving. My administrative duty is to keep up with significant changes effecting District Court specifically with Legislation, Judges, and Supreme Court. And further, advise staff of the progress. Joining committees and attending meetings is important to keep informed and be an effective leader.
- Collaboration and communication are only possible if you have a staff that is self-sufficient as you take time to engage in committees and associations. Mutual respect and trust lead to empowerment. As a result of empowerment comes teamwork.
4. How have you approached any challenges you have encountered in working with public officials, law enforcement agencies and the public? What do you believe the Office of the Clerk of District Court can improve on in its relationships with other entities?
- I haven’t experienced any specific challenges with public officials or law enforcement agencies; however, as I stated before, make a point to attend meeting. Each meeting/conversation is valuable. You can either be a mentor or a student in the role of knowledge. Absorb information where/when you can. Each day is an opportunity to gain experience.
- The public can certainly have stressful interactions with our office due to circumstances bringing them to the court. Having that awareness, we can help deescalate their stress. It is important to respect their privacy, be concise and convey clearly how we can assist. Most importantly, and for their convenience, we can provide resources and options when we are not able to meet their needs. Virtual rather than in-person interactions have increased significantly and seeking ways to improve those abilities is a priority.
5. What are the biggest challenges facing the Office of the Clerk of District Court? How do you plan to address them?
- Changes in computer software systems. Both by the County and State. The knowledge I have acquired is imperative for the transitions facing the office.
- County: Involvement with intense training and preparation for the County conversion to the new system. Accounts payable processes are the major changes to District Court. Having been the AP Clerk of the office, I have from the beginning, participated in weekly and monthly meetings regarding this transition.
- State: Full Court Enterprise (FCE) is the new State court automation system. The Sixth (6) Judicial District is scheduled to go live this Fall. As with the county, I have been privy to updates on the progression, monthly. I have also completed processes in preparation for the transition.
6. What, if any, new initiatives would you like to implement if elected?
- Duties in the office are split among case types. This limits the ability for each clerk and creates an unbalanced atmosphere. My goal is to cross train. Each clerk having the same abilities and responsibilities would better serve the community. This I believe will promote teamwork and comradery.
7. How will you effectively manage taxpayer dollars? Do you believe the Office of the Clerk of District Court needs more resources? Why or why not?
- Keep within the budget and prioritize your needs. First, you have your basic day to day supplies. The supplies you cannot function without, e.g., paper, pens, envelopes, etc. Second, consideration for the purchase and replacement of worn or damaged items, we otherwise tolerate. Make a point to be frugal throughout the year, buying only necessities, then having a hope at the end of the budget year to have the ability to purchase the non-essential items, but certainly practical and within the office needs.
- Not currently. Any additional resources we may need are currently being satisfied or are already in the planning stages, e.g., office construction and employee compensation, via the commissioners.
8. What role does the Office of the Clerk of District Court have in criminal justice reform? What, if any, criminal justice reform measures do you believe are appropriate for the office to take and be involved with?
- Reform is primarily a judge, attorney, probation, and parole role. Certainly, there are ways the clerk of court can assist. As the keeper of the record, communications that are filed with our office are forwarded to the judge. And keeping the probation and parole office apprised of changes in defendant case financials. Otherwise, keeping an accurate record of pleadings and providing access is our primary role.
9. Compared with other candidates running in this election, why are you the best candidate for this position?
- My overall knowledge of the roles, duties, and practices, for the office of the Clerk of District Court, ranging from rudimentary to administrative.
- My knowledge of specialized accounting, auditing, and reporting practices associated with specialized computer software.
- The time I’ve invested in training with the specialized software to come, would save the county time and money. All individual employed by our office, will have to complete training on use and applications of new software and I can be a great resource for those individuals with the knowledge I have already acquired.
10. Is there anything else voters should know about you?
- I have been preparing for years to take on this role. Putting myself in positions to learn and understand the role of the Clerk of District Court. I have devoted my time to this office, how it operates and formulating ideas for improvement and efficiency, as it evolves. As the Chief Deputy, with approval by the Clerk, I have implemented procedures to streamline processes and verify accuracies. I am organized and meticulous which is crucial in this environment. I’m also compassionate and forgiving. We are not robots and cannot expect to be perfect.