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Transitioning into the office of County Clerk & Recorder

Posted at 12:16 AM, May 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-15 10:21:07-04

In each county, the Clerk and Recorder provide services to different departments to ensure that operations can run. As an elected position, the transition into office can be challenging, pose a learning curve, and an immersion into a new realm of responsibility.

In the recent 2022, November Primary election, Hill and Blaine County elected two new Clerk and Recorder positions. In the Democratic seat for Hill County position is Lexis Dixon. In the neighboring Blaine County, Pauly Miller holds the Republican seat.

Both have experience working in the Clerk and Recorders office and hold the title of Elections Administrator.

Dixon, 24 years old, is considered one of the youngest County Clerk and Recorders in the State of Montana.

“I've always set myself out to try to do a little bit better and to exceed a little more.”

Lexis worked in the Hill County Elections Office for two and a half years before her decision to run for the position. Her enjoyment of accounting and keeping records, in her mind made her the right fit. The turning point in her decision to be put on the ticket was the absence of an opponent.

“It came up, there was somebody else in our office and she was going to run and then all of a sudden she stopped coming. She was falling back a little bit. I didn’t really want that for the office. I didn’t want to work for somebody that way.”

Out of her comfort zone, the shy future public official earned her rightful place in the office. It wasn’t easy as she lost employees due to her perception that they could not see her in the administrative role. Dixon has two employees and looking to add an administrative assistant to alleviate her workload of 16-hour days to a normal eight hours.

In the neighboring Blaine County, Pauly Miller punched her ticket into the office when there was nobody else to run for the seat. Spending a nice tenure in the office, a discussion with her husband about “you have to do what you have to do,” was the deciding factor.

“They get somebody off the street, I’m going to have to train them anyway, so I might as well just do it,” laughed Miller.

Miller has a full staff and manages many departments for the county, but back in Hill County, Dixon was working on navigating the new changes to her office.

“When I came in as Clerk and Recorder, we got a credit card machine, etc. The little things that come with the generation that we are in.”

Both, remain cordial and work accordingly with their predecessors, utilizing the decades of experience in the position before them to ensure they are following the law and up to speed with what the job demands of them.

Hill County has a population of 16,000 residents and Blaine County has shy of 7,000 residents, the two have their hands full.

No matter when a newly elected official enters office, it poses challenges, that is true with 22-year veteran, Teton County Clerk and Recorder, Paula Jaconetty.

“I felt so unwelcomed.” She shared.

Jaconetty ran against a Republican and Democrat, two decades ago and won her position before the county went to a non-partisan seat.

“I went home after two weeks crying, telling my husband, ‘Oh, what have I done?’”

Hard times didn’t deter Jaconetty from the job, it only pushed her to find ways to overcome. Experiencing some of the same challenges as Dixon, Jaconetty navigated building morale in an office that made her unwelcome. She shared how the first batch of employees she worked with would not help her learn the processes of the office they had been running. Before she took over the office, the past Clerk and Recorder left her position open, and it was her calling to take the opportunity.

Since that moment, Jaconetty has studied statutes, worked with title companies to find out what needs to be recorded, and emphasized training offered by the Secretary of State’s office.

“I learned that as I went. I dig into things and am not afraid to ask questions or figure out how to do it.”

The job isn’t for the faint of heart, it requires social skills, courage, and most importantly, integrity.

“Integrity is important because everything you do affects everybody in the county, not just yourself,” said Miller.

“There's not a job description written down when you there are your requirements by law to do, but that's pretty much it,” added Dixon.

The lay of the land is the law in the office and will Jaconetty looks forward to the future of retirement and learning new election software, she feels this is the right time to train her appointed Elections Administrator of over ten years.

“I’ve got written directives on what needs to be done on certain months.”

Plans that offer a chance for her successor whether she is voted out by someone outside of the office or handing over the keys to an employee of the current office.

“If they walked in right now, there would be a learning curve for them, but it would not be an impossible learning curve for them to follow.”

In Teton County, if a new official takes Jaconetty’s place, she can be hired as a temporary employee to mentor the new office on any process to ensure that they are trained to handle the job on their own.

Her respect for the constituents who voted her in and loyalty to her county pushes her feelings aside to remain a resource no matter what her feelings may tell her.

“That's overwhelming to somebody coming in, even if they have a background. I would be there. I'd be available for them,” adding, “I care about the residents of this county, I love this county, and I am forever a steward to this county.”

Dixon and Miller remain in contact with their predecessor and utilizes their knowledge as a resource to the position.

Miller also has a connection with her sister as a resource, as the former Hill County Clerk and Recorder.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress. Working together is a success.”

In a world that has become so divided and politically charged, the integrity behind the job of Clerk and Recorder protects the integrity of what the United States of America was founded on, a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

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