Candidate 2018 profile: Jessica Irwin

Jessica Irwin

ELLIS COUNTY — Learn more about Jessica Irwin in her own words as she runs for Ellis County Clerk in the 2018 Republican primary.

Election day voting will be held on March 6, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for a list of election day polling locations. Early voting will take place February 20, 2018 through March 2, 2018. Click here for a list of early voting locations and times.

Click here to view and compare all County Clerk candidates' answers on one page.

Jessica Irwin questionnaire responses

1) Age:

30

2) City of Residence:

Midlothian

3) Years Living in Ellis County:

12 Years

4) Family:

I am married to Robert Irwin who is a Midlothian Varsity High School Football coach and Government Teacher. We have 3 lively boys Ethan, Zander, and Robbie.

5) Education:

Tarleton State University, BS in Agriculture Services and Development, Communications. Midlothian High School.

6) Previous Public Office Experience:

None

7) Occupation:

Agriculture Educator

8) Church and Civic Involvement:

Currently I am a FFA Advisor, SkillsUSA Advisor, 4-H Coordinator, and teacher. As a teacher, I work with Title 1 students to advance their career skills in Agriculture, leadership, and applying to colleges. Many of these students have overcome adversity and gone on to Veterinary Medical school. In addition to my school duties, I am a High School coach’s wife. This entails being at local sporting events, hosting dinners, and being an example for the young citizens of Ellis County. I am also a member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

9) Please provide a biographical narrative.

I am a graduate from Midlothian High School and Tarleton State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Services and Development, Communications. I moved to Ellis County in middle school with my family, left for college and returned to Ellis County as soon as I could. In high school I was active in the Marching Band, Color Guard, FFA, and a recipient of the Ellis County Master Gardner Scholarship. While in college, I was selected for Tau Beta Sigma, a national honorary sorority, and served as an officer. I am currently an Agriculture Science Educator and have previously served as an intern at the Ellis County Extension office. My experience as an Agriculture Educator has afforded me the privileges of both service to and leadership of the community. I have served on the CHAMPS leadership committee to increase positive behaviors from employees and students. Also I am a member of the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas.

10) What motivated your interest in running for County Clerk in Ellis County?

As a student in the FFA, I grew up admiring the Texas Agriculture Commissioner. From the moment I saw Susan Combs speak I knew I wanted to be a leader and make a difference in my community. Also, I grew up with a mom who worked for Ellis County, so with the example of selfless service she has set, it feels natural to me to answer the call of public service. My mother is an 8 year employee of the Ellis County Clerk’s office. I have seen the office, and county, grow from the time she worked in Human Resources at the Ellis County Court House to when she began her new role as the Vitals Clerk. When I first learned of Mrs. Polley’s retirement, I knew this was my chance to serve my community and build upon the lessons my mother has taught me. I knew that the skill sets I have sharpened as an Agriculture Educator would seamlessly transition me into this office and allow me to bring talent and innovation to the County Clerk’s office. I want to bring in the technological advancements that are needed to increase the efficiency of this office. I can take what I use in my career as an Agriculture Educator and bring it to the County Clerk’s office. As an educator, I must complete detailed documentation on a daily basis. I must protect confidential records in accordance with numerous state laws. I am also frequently called upon to electronically file documents in order to streamline information. With this knowledge and first-hand experience with the County Clerk’s office I felt that it was my duty to step up and run for office.

11) Briefly and succinctly define the job responsibilities of the office you are seeking.

The county clerk is responsible for a wide range of duties mandated by Texas law. The clerk serves the public as the official keeper of county records. These records include items filed by citizens and public officials, such as real estate related filings, mortgages, plats, DD 214’s for discharged vets, public notices, leases, liens, DBA’s, birth/death certificates, brand registration, and Marriage licenses. The County clerk also collects fines, fees, and court costs for misdemeanor court.

The county clerk receives, records, and preserves these records. In addition, the county clerk prepares agendas and maintains meeting minutes. These meetings are with other county officials in the community at Commissioners’ Court.

12) What qualifications and professional experiences do you possess that are applicable to the position you are seeking requires? Be specific.

My Professional experience as an Ag Educator has given me the tools to be a leader with a servant’s heart along with other duties similar to that of the County Clerk. I must complete detailed documentation on a daily basis. I protect confidential records in accordance with numerous state laws. I am frequently called upon to electronically file reports and records in an attempt to streamline the sharing of information. With my background in Agriculture, I also have the added bonus of understanding the importance of record keeping and registering cattle brands.

13) What qualifications do you possess that will enable you to manage a budget of over $1 million for the County Clerk’s office? Be specific.

As an Agriculture Educator and an advisor of a nationally recognized organization, I have a number of financial responsibilities similar to that of the County Clerk. I must access and maintain accurate records of the budget for the agriculture department at one of the largest schools in the nation. I am frequently called upon to place purchase orders and keep track of public money. Being attentive to detail, keeping track of all expenditures, and generally being efficient will enable me to manage any size budget for the County Clerk’s office.

14) How has your education and professional experience prepared you for this office?

Beyond my direct experience, I believe the education I received at Tarleton State University has prepared me for this opportunity. While at Tarleton, I earned a bachelor's degree in Agriculture Services and Development and interned at the Ellis County Agricultural Extension Office. My work ethic, passion for service, and work related skill sets will help me serve the citizens of Ellis County. As an Agriculture Educator I have led the community with a servant’s heart and successfully completed a number of tasks similar to that of the County Clerk.

15) Have you declared bankruptcy or have had any liens placed upon you in the past 10 years? If so, please explain.

No

16) What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)?

My college degree and career directly relate to public service. I am the only candidate with a four year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. My education and professional skill sets will help me bring innovation and a fresh perspective to the County Clerk’s office.

17) Is there any additional training that you plan to seek to assist you in the duties of County Clerk?

County Clerks are required to attain 20 hours of training during each calendar year that begins after election. Beyond seeking my own professional development, I plan to further my understanding of each County Clerk employee’s duties in order to help them find professional development aimed at addressing their needs and the overall efficiency of the Clerk’s office.

18) What is the appropriate budget size for the County Clerk’s office and why should the current budget be cut, remain the same or increased?

The budget for the County Clerk’s office should remain at a minimum the same so that we can correct and update improperly scanned documents as well as upgrade our records keeping database. I want to adopt the best practices of a number of other counties so that I can make all county records more easily accessible to the citizens of Ellis County.

19) What are the three greatest challenges facing Ellis County related to the position you are seeking? If elected, what measures would you propose to resolve them?

The greatest challenges for the County Clerk’s office are modernizing and increasing public record accessibility, creating clarity for Ellis County Citizens, and Commissioner’s Court minutes readily available. If elected I would transition the database for public records to a more accessible platform and implement technology to create efficiencies that save taxpayer dollars. I want to create clarity on the website by having itemized lists of necessary information citizens will need when they come to the Clerk’s Office for their various forms and vital records. Finally I want to bring greater transparency to Ellis County by displaying a sense of urgency when completing Commissioner’s Court minutes. I believe the citizens of Ellis County have a right to know what is going on and that information must be made public in a timely manner.

20) If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you work with other elected officials and county staff to achieve them? Be specific.

If elected my top three priorities are addressing the three greatest challenges the county clerk’s office faces. First I want to work with other county clerk’s offices to research best practices. My goal is to adopt a more modern approach to record keeping. I want to transition our current records database to a more readily accessible platform so that Ellis county citizens have the files they need, when they need them. Second, I want to keep up to date websites and use social media platforms to help establish greater clarity for the citizens of Ellis County. If you need something from our office, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to find what documents you’ll need to provide our office so you can procure your vital records. Lastly, I want to work with city and county officials through the Commissioner’s Court to make sure that the minutes from meetings are available in a timely manner.

21) Government transparency has been an issue at all levels of politics for the past few years. Do you feel that the county is transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?

Government transparency is a very important issue at all levels of government. Elected official have taken oaths to serve the people and I feel that it is our job as public servants to be accountable to our constituents and as transparent as possible. The County itself seems to have a good record with respect to transparency but there is always room for improvement. Things like posting the Commissioners’ Court minutes in a more timely manner is one example of how Ellis County could be more transparent.

22) Minutes from Commissioners’ Court meetings are often slow to be written, presented to the Commissioners’ Court for approval and published on the county website. Do you believe this is an issue? If so, what do you plan to do to resolve the issue?

Yes, Commissioners’ Court meeting minutes are slow to be written and presented. I plan to resolve this issue by having minutes completed with a sense of urgency. As an Ag Educator my work comes home with me more nights than not. Deadlines are real in the world of education and I intend to apply that attitude to my responsibilities as County Clerk.

23) In your opinion, what are the most important qualities that a County Clerk needs to have?

I believe that because we are here to serve the citizens of Ellis County, the first and most important quality the County Clerk should possess is being a great people person. The Clerk’s office is often the face of government for the county and that face should be pleasant, understanding, and helpful. I also believe that due to the nature of the record keeping responsibilities, the County Clerk should be exceptionally organized, detail oriented, and punctual.

24) How can the office of County Clerk best serve the citizens of the county?

A County Clerk can best serve the citizens of the county by being efficient, accessible, and up to date with technology.

25) If elected, how would you reach out and form relationships with residents of Ellis County and how would you reach out to those residents in the outlying areas of the county?

The internet, modern technology, and social media have made the world a smaller and more accessible place. I want that to be true for Ellis County as well. It shouldn’t matter if you live 5 minutes from the courthouse or all the way out at the county line. You should have the same access to your public records. It is my goal to create a County Clerk’s office that serves ALL of it’s citizens by utilizing the best technology we can responsibly implement.

26) If elected, what are the factors on which you will base your decisions as County Clerk?

If elected, I will base all decisions on two key questions. First, is this decision efficiently serving our citizens best interests? Second, is this decision cost effective? All my decisions as your County Clerk will be run through that filter in order to make sure that the office is accountable to the citizens we serve.

27) Why should voters choose you?

Electing Jessica Irwin as your County Clerk would guarantee you, as a tax payer, a leader with a servant’s heart. You would not be electing the status quo. I will make sure that you are getting the most efficient services from the County Clerk’s office and have someone that is accessible with an open door policy. You will be electing a leader that respects County Clerk employees, someone that doesn’t skip over details, and has knowledge of the office operations. I have gained this knowledge first hand as a daughter of a hard working employee of the County Clerk’s office for the past 8 years. You will be getting a County Clerk that will maintain that small town service feel but add the 21st century efficiency.