Theresa Gabriel, who was appointed Toledo clerk of courts in January, filed petitions yesterday with the Lucas County Board of Elections to run for the seat in November.
Handing 124 petition signatures and a check for $80 to an elections worker, she officially entered the first political race of her life. But Ms. Gabriel, 66, is no stranger to City Hall. She retired last year after working 39 years in various capacities for Toledo government.
A Republican, she pledged to work closely with the seven judges on the Municipal Court, five of whom are Democrats. She appeared with Democratic Judge C. Allen McConnell at a news conference Monday to promote a plan to hold Housing Court sessions in neighborhoods around the city. The first one will begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the East Toledo Family Center.
“I've said before that I am not a politician. I've got a job to do, and I am doing it,” she said. “As long as you work hard and as long as you work smart, you can get along with people. It's not a problem.”
Ms. Gabriel yesterday touted a new program that urges people with outstanding traffic citations to pay them off, which is now required before renewing Ohio automobile registrations or drivers' licenses.
The clerk uses direct mail to notify those who have outstanding tickets that they will not be able to renew their licenses until citations are settled.
Matthew Bartow, an aide to Ms. Gabriel, said the office has increased revenue by an average of $11,000 a week since implementing the program this year.
Toledo Municipal Court and the clerk's office handle court cases for Toledo, Ottawa Hills, and Washington Township.
Ms. Gabriel is paid $82,660 a year. She was appointed to the seat left vacant by Maggie Thurber, who won a seat on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners last year.
Ms. Gabriel will be challenged by Democrat Vallie Bowman-English, an assistant county prosecutor also making her first run for public office. The two will face off in the Nov. 4 general election for a six-year term.
Ms. Bowman-English, 33, will file her petitions today. She said she wants to make several technological upgrades to the office.
“The first thing I want to do is make the office a place of pride for the workers and the community. I basically want to put the [office] on the cutting edge of technology and make it a leader instead of a follower, because right now, we're badly lagging,” she said.
She said her priorities include installing a computer system that would allow courtroom staffers to make “real-time court reporting” entries into the official court record. That would help prevent criminals from buying guns and keep people who just cleared their records from being arrested again, she said.