By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Eligible voters can make their voices heard on multiple levels of government – it’s not solely restricted to the well-known ones like mayor or president. They also have a say in positions like Clerk of Circuit Court, a position that Anna Hodges is currently campaigning for.
Hodges, who formerly served as Chief Deputy Clerk of Circuit Court, launched her campaign in February following the retirement of former Clerk of Court John Barrett in January. She is campaigning against Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson, with the Partisan Primary Election scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9, and the Fall General Election Tuesday, Nov. 8.
According to the Milwaukee County website, the Clerk of Circuit Court works across the four court-related buildings including Milwaukee County Courthouse, Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center, the Safety Building and the Criminal Justice Facility.
“The clerk is responsible for maintaining the records for the courts, for the management of all the staff that support the judges and process all the work that comes out of the court,” Hodges said.
The clerk oversees nearly 300 employees and the processing of all case filings, approximately 150,000 annually and the management of a $42 million budget. It’s an important job, Hodges said, there’s a huge responsibility and its day-to-day operations are substantial.
Hodges, who has over 29 years of experience with a majority of them being spent in the Milwaukee County court system, believes she’s the best fit.
“I have a wide range of experience and of knowledge and I’m passionate about what we do,” she said.
Hodges said it’s her experience that sets her apart from her opponent. During her career, Hodges served as the pro se coordinator and the interpreter coordinator. She later became the assistant chief deputy clerk of circuit court before assuming the role of chief deputy clerk.
In her positions, Hodges worked to ensure that the court was accessible. For example, as the interpreter coordinator, she made sure that individuals had interpreters when they came to court.
“We have a large population of individuals that need interpreters,” she said. “It’s a wide range of dialects and my job was to make certain that I secured interpreters for them.”
At the time, the state was just beginning the interpreter certification process and Hodges helped the state determine the requirements as well as help recruit people.
“One thing that I’m very proud of is the fact that I went to the state or to CCAP and we started coding cases,” she said. “They developed a code for me so I could identify who needed what type of interpreter.”
When individuals who needed interpreters came to court, this ensured that one was available for them and cut down on the number of adjournments, Hodges said.
“It gave people the opportunity to come into court and have the resources that they needed and have those certified interpreters available to them,” she said.
She also worked as the division administrator for the Civil Division. In this role, she was in charge of the filings which included large claims, small claims, family, divorce, paternity and TROs.
During her time, she gained a better understanding of the process from the time a claim is filed to the actual court date. She said this understanding will serve her in the role of clerk of circuit work when it comes to suggesting and implementing changes to the process.
The Civil Division was among the first to begin filing electronically, she said. That transition shed a light on some of the challenges that exist. Hodges designed workarounds to make the system work for the Milwaukee County Court system such as a tab system.
“My knowledge puts me in a better position to manage and maintain the day-to-day operations and to really bring about true change within the Clerk of Circuit Court Office,” she said.
If elected, Hodges intends to restructure how the office operates and how it distributes its resources to improve its cross-functionality.
“I think the biggest challenge is going to be assessing what the needs of the office are and implementing a new structure,” she said.
This means looking at how the current system is structured and how employees are supported. These efforts include training opportunities for line staff and the management team. Hodges noted that the shortage of employees doesn’t exclude the court systems.
“It’s important to fill positions but it’s also important to fill these positions with candidates that are appropriate for these jobs,” she said. “Being a public servant is not a simple job. We need to meet the needs of our customers and that should always be our focus.”
One of her main areas of focus would be customer service. An aspect of her plan includes cross-training, which will allow the office to provide improved services to internal and external customers.
The Clerk’s Office can’t provide legal advice, but it can refer individuals to resources, she said.
“These are difficult times for individuals and it’s important that we don’t lose sight of that,” Hodges said. “We’re there to serve and help as best we can so that they can be successful in whatever litigation or process they’re there for.”
Hodges noted that she has been a committed public service and her life’s work and passion is about helping people.
“I am just your average person. I am not a politician in any way, shape or form,” she said. “I don’t think we need a politician for the Clerk of Circuit Court. I understand it’s a partisan office, but this individual’s commitment should be to the people in this county.”