Criswell unopposed as he seeks circuit clerk job

FIFTH TIME’S THE CHARM...

Circuit Clerk Mike Criswell: going for record of longest-serving elected official in Blount County history.

Circuit Clerk Mike Criswell: going for record of longest-serving elected official in Blount County history.

Elective position: circuit clerk
Term of office: six years
Annual salary: $106,000 (approximate)

“I’ve run with opposition a couple of times and without opposition a couple of times. I like it a lot better without,” Mike Criswell said with a passing smile. “I assume that means people think I’m doing a good job, since no one’s running against me.”

Maybe so, or maybe it’s because opponents are intimidated by the prospect of going against so much experience: 23 years at present, 24 years at the end of the present term. If elected in November, Criswell will serve his fifth term, retiring in January 2019 with 30 years on the job, the longest-serving circuit clerk – heck, the longest serving public official, as best as can be determined

– in Blount County history.

By now, many voters know the unassuming Criswell from his many years at the courthouse. For those that don’t, the profile below summarizes his personal background, experience, and job knowledge.

Personal profile The soon-to-be-57-year-old Criswell was born and raised in Snead. With the exception of a short time spent away from home working construction jobs during his college years, he has lived in Blount County all his life, residing now on Avery Road a short distance outside Oneonta. He graduated from Susan Moore High School in 1973. He attended the University of Alabama, graduating with an undergraduate degree in political science before entering law school there. He was awarded his law degree in 1984. He is married to Lori Marsh Criswell, a CPA with Criswell and Associates of Snead. The Criswells have three children: Bradley, 25; Will, 19; and Maggie, 16.

Work experience Criswell returned to Snead after graduating from law school and established a law practice there. About a year later, he entered a partnership with Bob Bentley, forming the firm Bentley and Criswell in Oneonta. In 1988, he ran against 12-year veteran Circuit Clerk John Bobby Green, winning the office by eight votes in his first campaign. He ran again in 1994 against David Standridge and was again elected. In 2000 and 2006, he was re-elected without opposition.

Duties of the office of circuit clerk Criswell listed the following major duties of the office: •serve as clerk of circuit, district, juvenile and traffic courts. •act as court manager, or business manager for courts. •take in fines and court costs associated with all court cases. •disperse revenue to all proper recipients according to formula, including state and county agencies, the law library, and various associations, as directed by state law. •serve as custodian and repository of all court files, including pleadings by attorneys, rulings and orders of judges,and other matters of record. •handle notification of parties of all court actions such as hearing and trial dates, motion dockets, appearances, pleas, and related matters. •manage jury matters, including summons, scheduling, pay, and jury management in general. •assist the probate judge and sheriff on the county election board to conduct elections within the county.

Candidate’s statement to voters “I enjoy the job and I appreciate the confidence people have shown in me over the years. I think the years of experience speak for themselves. I will say I think my law degree helped me considerably. It is not a requirement for the job, and only a few circuit clerks in the state have a law degree – only three that I knew of at last count. But I don’t see how somebody without one could step in and do the job. Just the knowledge of court procedures and familiarity with the terminology is a tremendous advantage. As I said before, if the job wasn’t getting done satisfactorily, I don’t think I would have gone into three elections without opposition.”

Status of health concerns Criswell was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about a year and a half ago. Though termed “disease,” the malady is actually not a disease, but a neurological condition that is normally treated and managed with medication. The Blount Countian asked Criswell to comment on the status of his health relative to his ability to carry out the duties of the job for the coming term. “I’ve made no effort to keep people from knowing about it. As soon as I was diagnosed, I told the people I work with here, and of course my family. The medications essentially reduce or mask the symptoms. And that’s working like it’s supposed to. I see a neurologist every six months to make sure it stays under control. I fully intend to serve out the six-year term. If I thought I couldn’t, I wouldn’t even start. I could’ve retired two years ago, but I stayed on because I still enjoy the job.”