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County Clerk candidate’s retirement surfaces as sticky campaign issue

With 20-plus years working in the Shelby County Clerk’s office, Donna Creson now wants to run the place. On Wednesday, Creson shared that she chose to retire out of the Clerk’s office when confronted with the choice of retirement or termination.

The Republican Party’s nominee on the Aug. 2 ballot, Creson faces the opposition of Democrat Wanda Halbert, a former Memphis City Councilmember and once a school board commissioner.

“Someone who was forced to leave office should never be in a position to lead that same office,” Halbert said.

Reflecting on her departure from the Clerk’s office, Creson said she was confronted by the administration about work that she was doing for a car dealership, and some work on titles. The work was done on her lunch hours, during breaks and after county work hours, Creson said.

“They told me that I could be fired over that situation and I told them that I could fight it too because that was not a reason to terminate anyone,” Creson said.

Asked why she decided to retire, Creson said she figured “me and the HR woman did not get along and I knew I was planning to run for county clerk, so I’ll just let that go and run for county clerk, because I enjoyed working at the office.”

The revelation comes as voters prepare to go to the polls Aug. 2 to decide who the next county clerk will be.

Creson left the clerk’s office in 2016 and has been helping raise her grandchildren since then.

Halbert said several people along the campaign trail told her about Creson’s situation.

“These kinds of allegations have been previously made against other (Clerk’s office) employees in the past. We saw them on television with formal legal charges or terminations. This one shouldn’t be any different.”

Creson easily won the Republican Primary and Halbert had a big victory in the Democratic Primary.

The county clerk handles vehicle license renewals, business and marriage licenses, notary public commissions and liquor by the drink tax collections, among other duties. Wayne Mashburn was term limited as clerk and ran for Register of Deeds.

Mashburn was reported out of the office for the rest of the week on Wednesday. Deputy Administrator Bobby Granberry said he would refer questions about Creson to the Human Resources Department. No one had responded by TSD press time.

Creson worked in the clerk’s office beginning in 1997 and ending in 2016. The declared cornerstone of her election platform is providing better customer service.

“Serving the public the way they should be served,” Creson said. “I’ve seen how employees and the public are treated. The public is not treated the way they should be treated.”

Creson started as a title clerk, moved on to the business tax department, became a business tax investigator and then into management as a supervisor of motor vehicle registration. She said more training is needed for employees and that a lot of them have “training issues” that translate into poor customer service.

“If you go in there and they send you back for one thing, and you get that one thing, they send you out for something else,” she said. “Sometimes they (customers) have to make five or six trips back into the office.

“They’re time is valuable, so they don’t have time to keep coming back into the office for this and for that,” she said.

Better-trained workers could make the process more efficient, Creson said.

Halbert served in an administrative capacity for a local non-profit, Riverstate Agency, for 35 years and worked for 25 years at FedEx in the IT Division before retiring in 2013. She has been running a private business for a little less than a year and said her professional work has prepared her for the duties of the clerk’s position.

“I’m able to walk in and perform the administrative services that are needed,” said Halbert, adding that she wants to educate the public adequately about the services provided by the clerk’s office.

Clerk’s office employees must have the necessary tools and resources to perform their jobs, said Halbert, also vowing to hold each employee – from the administration on down – accountable to have the highest ethics and integrity as they provide services to the public.

“I have heard a number of (customer service) complaints from time to time,” she said. “I’ve never experienced a problem but we want to make sure our customers are satisfied with our customer service level.”

Halbert envisions a series of town hall meetings to help educate the public on what is available and also to improve online services.

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