In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat incumbent Pamela
Mishler Fish and Republican Karen M. Martin will vie for the office of Clerk
of the Circuit Court. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond
to candidate questionnaires.
The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right
to edit for length.
(1) Age, place of residence, occupation.
Fish: 49, Valparaiso, Porter County Clerk.
Martin: 55, Valparaiso, self-employed.
(2) Describe the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s responsibilities. (75
Fish: The Clerk of the Circuit Court is responsible for maintaining the
records of the county. We also process small claims, traffic tickets,
warrants, protective orders, evictions, wills and estates, guardianships,
criminal cases, tax warrants, civil cases, child support, bond money, mental
health cases, perform marriages, and oversee elections.
Martin: The Clerk of the Circuit Court’s responsibilities include but
are not limited to record keeping and financial duties for the Courts
regarding civil and criminal matters. Civil includes marriage, divorce,
child support, adoption, name changes, estates, personal liability issues,
and collection matters. Criminal matters include offenses of misdemeanors
and felonies such as traffic, theft, burglary, domestic abuse, manslaughter,
(3) What are your qualifications for the office? (75 words)
Fish: I graduated Indiana University with a degree in public and
environmental affairs, for 16 years was president and CEO of Midwest
Environmental Systems, and was a member of the Union Township School Board.
As County Clerk, I’ve spent the past two and a half years studying best
practices in other Clerk’s Offices statewide. In September I received my
diploma from the Association of Indiana Counties for 60 credit hours of
county government training.
Martin: My past experience in the legal field includes legal assistant,
law office manager, and instructor at the Paralegal Institute of NWI.
As a past member and president of the Porter County Council my detailed
knowledge and background would assist me in reducing the financial impact to
the taxpayers and residents of Porter County.
Being a small business owner, I understand the need for efficient
transactions and fiscal responsibility.
(4) To Fish: Why are you seeking re-election to the office? (75 words)
I wish to seek re-election to the Clerk’s Office to finish projects that I
have started and to also implement other programs that I believe will help
us become even more efficient.
To Martin: Why are you seeking election to the office? (75 words)
After in-depth conversations with the legal community I felt their concerns
were valid and needed to be addressed. Delays and errors were substantial.
An individual who has legal, management, and county budget experience would
be a positive direction for this office. Only after researching the
department and evaluating my own qualifications did I feel that I would be
the best candidate for the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe
yourself a better candidate? (125 words)
Fish: I do not believe in negative campaigning so I will not comment on
my opponent. I have proven that I am committed to professionalism, public
service, efficiency, non-partisan government, and saving tax dollars. In two
and a half years we have automated the Accounting Department in-house saving
taxpayers $102,000, received $14,000 in grant money for voting booths,
opened the offices during the lunch hour, reduced undistributed child
support by 70 percent, began electronic imaging of court documents saving
time, paper and space, and automated 1099s and tax warrants. I have
attempted to operate the Clerk’s Office as a business. We are in the
business of serving the public efficiently, effectively, and professionally.
Martin: Evaluating issues, researching and arriving at positive
resolutions are my areas of expertise. Believing that a hands on learning
and approach allow individuals to feel a sense of confidence which is
necessary to accomplish a job well done. My background in the legal field
and my attention to detail will assist me in helping others understand their
need for detail and efficiency. Using my management skills will help
motivate individuals and create a positive time management environment which
will effectively increase productivity and reduce errors. Years in county
government will assist me in accomplishing the best possible product for the
least amount of funds.
(6) What are the key issues in the race? (125 words)
Fish: There are several key issues in this race. First, which candidate
has a proven track record in improving the operations of the Clerk’s Office?
Second, who is most qualified to serve in this capacity? Third, who has done
the most research regarding best practice relating to Clerk’s Offices around
the state? Fourth, which candidate has been able to find ways to save
taxpayer dollars? Fifth, which candidate has shown a commitment to
researching the laws and how they relate to county government?
Martin: Job responsibilities and duties are of the utmost importance in
this race. Difficulty in doing one’s job well occurs when they do not
address the issues at hand. Complacency occurs when the individual in charge
performs that job in such a manner that management is not an intricate part
of the daily interaction. Responsibility for one’s performance reflects
through their employees. The Clerk of the Circuit Court’s actions affect
every individual in Porter County. If documentation is not filed in a timely
matter delays will occur. If a warrant is not issued or not pulled someone
may be arrested that shouldn’t be and someone who should be arrested isn’t.
If support cannot be paid or found, a parent cannot pay their bills or buy
(7) If elected, do you anticipate making staffing changes in the Clerk’s
Office? Why or why not? (50 words)
Fish: If I am re-elected, I do not intend to make staffing changes in
the Clerk’s Office unless something occurs which forces me to do so. I am
blessed with an incredible, hardworking, professional staff that works well
together and is committed to excellent public service.
Martin: Initially, I would train the individuals in the office so that
they are given the opportunity to do their job with new management. It would
seem unreasonable to assume they are unable to do the job. Elected officials
have some appointed positions.
(8) Do you regularly attend meetings of the Porter County Council and Porter
County Commissioners? Why or why not? (50 words)
Fish: All department heads and elected officials are required to attend
various County Council and County Commissioner meetings. I attend meetings
which I believe may have an effect on the Clerk’s Office, the courts, and
elections. I also attend meetings involving topics of county government
which interest me.
Martin: I attended most all of the County Council and County
Commissioners meetings for nine years and still keep informed on a regular
basis by either attending or reading the minutes on-line. It is important to
be aware of information that will affect you.