Conditions in the Toledo Clerk of Municipal Court's office have improved considerably during the incumbent clerk's eight years in charge. And while considerable work remains to be done, including the improvement of working relations with the judges of the municipal court, Republican Maggie Thurber has given no reason to suggest that she should be replaced. We support her re-election for a third term.
Her Democratic opponent is state Sen. Linda Furney, whose long service in the Ohio Senate is coming to an end next year because of term limits.
Ms. Furney has been a worthy representative for Toledo in the General Assembly. But her campaign offers Toledoans no compelling reason to make a change in an office that common sense says shouldn't be an elected position to begin with. And if it must continue to be that, it should not be a retreat for out-of-work politicians.
Ms. Furney herself also has offered little by way of the business and technical qualifications obviously needed to keep this clerk's office in the 21st century.
Ms. Thurber has overseen the computerization of an office to which informational technology was very late in coming. All court cases are now documented electronically. Where once the office faced a six-week case backlog, today there is none, and fines can be paid electronically.
Her foresight in developing the court's computer system in an integrated fashion has enabled 47 different agencies - from law enforcement to jails and corrections, from other clerks of court and judges to the state liquor control people - to have access to its data. Police and firefighters are endorsing her. They say she has made their work easier, although Ms. Furney's legislative push for residency requirements for safety officers may also account for their preference for Ms. Thurber.
The retraining of a staff of 71 - whose work had once been segmented into areas like data entry, working the counter, or keeping the official journal up to date - to a level of using computers with comfort is ongoing. As is typical of change in anything, the path hasn't always been smooth. But Ms. Thurber, over time, says she has come to appreciate the know-how of her staff and has shown herself able to work well with people who sometimes may not like her.
Several things remain to be done. One is implementing a central computer system in courtrooms and using it to streamline court record-keeping and services, including payment of fines. This will require a nod from the judges of the municipal court and their staffs, who must begin setting court dates in their court rooms. In the name of public service, this effort should not be too long in manifesting itself.
Another is setting up public access computers in the clerk's office and perhaps in neighborhood police stations at which people can look up information on individual cases, criminal as well as civil, without having to go downtown or stand in line.
Ms. Thurber's attention to efficiency and public service has been commendable. She cleaned up a mess and has shown ability and assertiveness. She merits another term.