Michael A. Kirk (Dem)
Writer, Editor, Former Lay Minister, At-Home Parent
The Democratic Party
Experience (Max 350 characters)
People-oriented service, 16 years; Budgeting and Administration, 9 years; Ecclesiastical record keeping, 8 years; Canon law casework, 2 years
Town where you live
Why did you decide to run for this office?
I came to believe someone needed to run for County Clerk when I discovered that the incumbent had violated a court order in his first months in office. After the women I attempted to recruit to run both declined, I filed myself. Since then, I've learned about the hostile work environment currently polluting the Clerk's office and the need for more attention to criminal justice reform on the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council. Service has always been my vocation, and since my teenage years, I've lived it out, serving communities of thousands managing facilities, budgets, staff, and teams of dozens of volunteers. Since my family settled in Spokane, I've been committed to making a more just, welcoming, and equitable society here in our community. Among other things, I have organized and moderated the Spokane Anti-Hate Summit among police, elected officials, and community members. Now, it's time to work with our judges, commissioners, prosecutor, and sheriff to accomplish still more.
What qualifies you for this office?
Prior to starting my family in Spokane with my wife Noelle, a psychologist, criminologist, and Marine Corps veteran, and our daughter Thea, who was born at Valley Hospital, I spent about fifteen years in youth and family ministry and parish administration. I developed, improved, and fought for budgets, I planned and implemented training programs, and I recruited, trained, and led staff and volunteers, all experiences I believe are directly translatable to public service. There are always limited funds and human resources, my training in people-oriented management empowers me to help employees apply their strengths to present challenges. My graduate training in Systematics will also enable me to properly analyze and prioritize the needs of the public, the civil servants, and the technological needs of the mission at-hand without losing sight of the higher principles, like the Constitution, we are called to serve.
What is your experience with handling records as required by law?
During my fifteen years in youth and family ministry I was also trained as a canon law case assistant. I received and processed complicated legal files, ensuring that all of the documentation necessary for a successful tribunal hearing were included, completed, and labeled accurately. My cohort and I had to go through four months of training before being allowed to handle a case. I know that a file even slightly mislabeled can be lost; with a digital system, it could be lost forever. I understand the attention to detail and continuing education that is required to ensure that clerks and process clerks are kept competent and confident in completing the ever-evolving rules and requirements of the Superior Court. And I’m committed to ensuring that the Clerk’s office, through improved training becomes and remains imminently dependable for the court system and the people of Spokane County.
What are the three major issues facing the office of Clerk?
The incumbent’s predecessor required three months of training and shadowing before a clerk could handle evidence or documents on their own. That training period is now down to two weeks. Some of those doing the training, themselves have less than six months experience. Now with no Deputy Clerk to train new supervisors, there are further holes in the training and development process.
Long-tenured experienced employees could help mitigate this downturn, but fully half of the staff that the incumbent inherited have retired or left for other jobs in the last four years, a disturbing rate of attrition. With the downward trajectory of experience and training, loss of files and evidence is a matter of when, not if, if it hasn’t been happening already.
The incumbent also divides his time with Veterans Court, which is not in his jurisdiction or duties. He touts his work on LFO reform but with few results; I’m comfortable saying justice reforms are a higher priority for me than the incumbent.
How do you intend to address these issues?
The tiny training time of the workers who receive, log, file, and preserve the evidence and documents of our courts is priority number 1. I will start surveying the clerks and processors to identify shortfalls. By the end of 2019, every Clerk’s office employee will have renewed training, keeping our court system functional.
At this critical point when staff experience is depleted, investing in tech and experienced employees remaining in the office is more vital than cutting budget. I will fight for the funds to implement the two-years-overdue Odyssey file system and retain the experienced employees necessary to the functioning of the office.
The hours available to work with clerks, processors, judges and other court officers need to be maximized. In my ministry career, I compiled a track record of investing time beyond my work hours and duties into the needs of my community. With me, the people of Spokane County will rest assured that I will work hard for justice on and off the clock.