Election 2020: Kent County clerk of the peace

Brenda Wootten

Name: Brenda Wootten
Party: Democrat
Age: 57
Family: Mother, Loretta Wootten; sister, Donna Stanley; brother-in-law, Jim Stanley; niece, Summer Stanley; and nephew, Hunter Stanley
Residence: Did not answer
Occupation: Did not answer

Kimberly Petters

Name: Kimberly Petters
Party: Republican
Age: 39
Family: Married 15 years with four children together
Residence: Magnolia
Occupation: U.S. Air Force retired

Why are you running for this seat?
BW:
I am a Delaware native who has proudly served the constituents of this county for over 30 years between state and county government. I am seeking reelection as Kent County clerk of the peace because I have a sincere passion in serving others and giving back to my community. In the last four years in this office, I have had the pleasure of serving thousands of constituents, either by issuing their marriage licenses and/or performing their ceremony. I am dedicated and committed in listening to the needs of all who enter our office and go above and beyond in making their special day a memorable occasion. With the renovations to our beautiful ceremony room and the recent upgrades to our online application process, our revenue continues to increase. I am always looking for innovative ways for staff and myself to continue to provide excellent customer service to the public, while maintaining a friendly and professional working environment. When reelected as Kent County clerk of the peace, it is my sincere pledge to continue to give back to the community of this country that I have been honored and privileged to represent.
KP: Serving the community and helping others is my passion. As clerk of the peace, I will serve the people of our county with the same dedication that I served our country while on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. I believe strong marriages and healthy families build a better community. I am dedicated to serving you full time as clerk of the peace, bringing fresh perspective and new ideas to the office, including a website devoted to marriage counseling and family finances, partnering with community nonprofits, churches and financial planners, and distributing resources to every newlywed Kent County couple at no extra expense to taxpayers.

What do you see as the major issues in this election?
BW:
The biggest issue I see in this election is the division between our political affiliations, which has placed high personal costs on the American people. It has caused emotional stress, families and friendships to be destroyed, anger sometimes leading to unnecessary violence and/or death, frustration and a host of many other unhealthy behaviors. It is my hope that whatever the outcome of the election may be, that we as a county, state and nation work together in finding a common ground in putting our differences aside to restore unity and peace in our nation.
KP: One major issue in this election would be the statewide restrictions implemented amid COVID-19. Opportunities to get out and meet people among the community were limited compared to any other year in history. Face-to-face conversations are such an important component for voters to get to know their local candidates beyond just a push card or Facebook advertisement.

What is the biggest problem facing the county and how would you solve it?
BW:
As with all the county, the biggest problem we have faced this year is the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly in our office, we have had to adjust the way we normally would perform our business. My deputy and I worked diligently for two months due to the office building being closed. I initiated the change to our marriage application website, allowing couples to sign online, which allowed us to streamline our process and begin Zooming couples for a more efficient process. We are issuing licenses now on a daily basis, but because of the social distancing restrictions, we are performing marriages outside the building with parties over six guests in attendance and are continuing to use face masks for the safety of all present. Until the restrictions are lifted, we will continue to abide by the guidelines currently in place.
KP: Like many offices and businesses around the state, Levy Court shut down initially to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This included the clerk of the peace office, which ceased performing all marriage ceremonies. Eventually, ceremonies began again on a case-by-case basis, outdoor only. For some time, those looking to get married in Kent County had to seek services from the Sussex County clerk of the peace, while Kent County lagged on implementing a plan to resume ceremonies. I would solve this by implementing permanent operational changes that would include a contingency plan, carefully mapping out guidance on how to still provide services during a public health crisis. With the proper safety precautions, all services can and should continue with minimal disruption to the community it serves.

Why is the office of clerk of the peace important? Should it be an appointed office?
BW:
Our office fulfills very important roles to our constituents by issuing marriage licenses and certified copies and performing marriage ceremonies in a diverse population, including for the military men and women who serve our country. In addition, we record and act as the custodian of records for all Levy Court business meetings. We are currently the only state that has an elected clerk of the peace office. Therefore, I believe the clerk of the peace office should remain as an elected office. It is my firm belief that citizens want and deserve more choices in elected offices, not fewer. The election of row officers removes politics from the process. I trust the people’s choice and am proud and honored to serve them.
KP: The clerk of the peace position is important because, in addition to processing marriage licenses and preforming wedding ceremonies, this position is also responsible for attending and recording Levy Court meetings as custodian of the minutes, advertising and posting county ordinances and countersigning warrants drawn on county funds. I would not support a move to make the clerk’s office an appointed position. The people of Kent County deserve to decide who serves as their clerk of the peace. If made appointed, the clerk would become yet another position of government patronage doled out to lackeys of the majority party.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?
BW:
Four years ago, I was elected to represent the voters of Kent County and took an oath of office pledging to perform my duties as Kent County clerk of the peace. I have remained committed and dedicated in my performance as an elected official. It truly has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of this county, and I would like to ask once again for your support in my reelection Nov. 3, so that I may continue my passion in serving my community. Thank you.
KP: If given the opportunity to serve as Kent County’s next clerk of the peace, I would bring new ideas to the office, greatly benefiting newly wedded couples and families in Kent County. As clerk, I will serve as your watchdog, frequently communicating with the public about ordinances under consideration and passed by Levy Court and other official county business. I’ll be the eyes and ears of the public, performing my duties as an independent county official observing Levy Court.