Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver used the expression multiple times Saturday afternoon during what turned into a relatively uneventful though well-mannered debate between contenders vying for his seat in the upcoming Democratic primary.
As most of Nashville took advantage of ideal weather outside, some 50 spectators convened at Tennessee State University’s Avon Williams campus to watch seven candidates discuss matters of record keeping inside Juvenile Court.
Election Day is May 4, with early voting beginning April 14. Davidson County residents can also choose to vote in a Republican primary.
Lineweaver’s string of negative recent headlines — including an arrest for failing to produce certain court documents — has put his hold on the seat in jeopardy, making the race the most analyzed contest in this year’s local election. The position pays an annual salary of $115,000.
While the six other candidates gave their reasons for running for the job, Lineweaver’s vulnerability is certainly the biggest reason the large field has formed.
“We’ve seen how the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office has been run over the past few years,” said Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, one of the challengers. “Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve seen the articles and the newspaper stories.”
Lineweaver used the debate to defend his record. He said he’s helped bring a new digital recording system to the courtroom; installed a new ATM machine in the clerk’s office; extended office hours by 30 minutes; and started scanning all incoming files.
But candidate David Smith, a General Sessions Court officer and recipient of the most campaign cash, pointed to three audits conducted over the past few years that he said suggests the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office lacks accountability, fails to communicate effectively with Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green and has finance issues.
“If I’m elected, we’ve got to have communication with the magistrates and the judge, between the parties, so we can work together, share ideas and make things change,” Smith said.
School board member Karen Johnson, meanwhile, said the clerk must work with Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling to ensure its allocation of funds is used appropriately when it comes to trust accounts for children.
“One of the things I would immediately improve is establishing a clear policy around that,” Johnson said.
Howard E. Jones, who is also targeting Lineweaver’s seat, said it’s important the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office secure a “web-based system” to review files, adding that the office must also seek to build relationships with outside groups.
“We need to communicate with stakeholders in the community, with neighborhood associations and with faith-based agencies,” Jones said.
If elected, Jeff Brousal, a pharmacologist for the state, said he would hope to improve the process of transferring motions and petitions between courtrooms. The office, he added, also needs to do a better job of monitoring its “in-house database.”
Candidate Patricia Courts seemed to share those sentiments, maintaining the office must to a better job of “streamlining the process” of record keeping.