STAUNTON – Augusta County Clerk of Circuit Court R. Steven Landes today issued the second annual Circuit Court Clerk’s Report for activities accomplished by the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in 2021. In addition, to sharing this report with the public, the report will be provided to members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, Augusta County representatives in the Virginia General Assembly, and Circuit Court Judges conducting Court in Augusta County.
“It is a pleasure to officially issue our second Circuit Court Clerk’s Report for 2021 to the citizens of Augusta County,” Landes said. “None of what is reported would have been possible without the tireless efforts of the staff of the Clerk’s Office, and I want to thank all our dedicated and hardworking staff members who have accomplished so much this past year for our citizens.”
The report highlights the activities and accomplishments for the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, including the Augusta County Court House Historic Records Fund; the Historic Records Volunteer Program; the continuation of the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Advisory Committee and the Clerk’s Internship Program, and details several new improvements in the technology utilized by the Clerk’s staff to provide better and more effective service to the citizens of Augusta County.
The Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office is in downtown Staunton at the Augusta County Courthouse. The Clerk serves as the recorder of deeds and probate judge, issues marriage licenses and is the official court administrator for all civil and criminal cases. The Clerk creates and maintains all court files and records, prepares court orders and jury lists, contacts jurors and issues summons and court processes. More information about the services of the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office can be found online at https://www.co.augusta.va.us/government/circuit-court-clerk .
Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Report
For Calendar Year 2021
On November 18, 2019, it was my honor to be sworn in as the 17th Clerk of Circuit Court for Augusta County, and I am now entering my third calendar year as Clerk. Each year I will continue to report on the activities of this Office to the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and the Citizens of Augusta County. During the campaign I set out several goals in three main categories: Innovating and Working for All, Preserving and Promoting History, and Seeking Input and Advice. I am happy to report again this year that much progress has been made in each category.
This report will once again detail the progress that was made related to the three main goals outlined above. In the area of Innovating and Working for All, several technological and office organization advances were accomplished in 2021. During the first half of the year the Clerk’s staff worked with the Augusta County Maintenance staff, Advanced Telephone & Data staff, Supreme Court of Virginia (SCV) Department of Judicial Information Technology Field Services staff, and Logan Systems, Inc. (our land record vendor) staff to complete several offices moves for the Court Division, Criminal Division and Land Record Division. In addition to moving several Divisions into new separate offices, donated cubicles were installed in the Record Room to allow for better workstations for the Land Records Division, Probate Division Assistant, and Information Desk staff. This was a major project and resulted in many meetings before the moves were completed and finalized on May 11 and 12.
In February a SCV Field Services Technician completed the final installation of the secure server rack in the basement. In May a Logan Systems Technician installed new and upgraded land record servers in the secure server rack. Also, in May Spectrum Integrators (our courtroom audio vendor) installed a new microphone for the Judge’s bench in Courtroom A. In June a SCV Field Services Technician installed and updated four staff computers, three scanners and two printers to replace old equipment.
In July Advanced Telephone & Data staff pulled new network cables, and a SCV Field Service Technician installed a new Elavon Credit Card Machine in the Record Room, and the old Elavon machine was moved to the Accounting Division. The new machine allows staff to take both debit and credit cards. In August the Augusta County Information Technology staff installed a Wi-Fi splitter in Courtroom A so one large screen monitor can be used for displaying evidence with a laptop connection at the counsel tables.
In September a Logan Systems Technician installed a new back-up universal power supply for our land record servers. In December a SCV Field Services Technician installed and updated seven printers and four scanners to replace old equipment. Also, in December a Logan Systems Technician updated our public access land record computers and moved three public use land record printers for easier access for the public.
The Augusta County Website was updated this year, and the Clerk’s Office formed a Clerk’s Office Webpage Committee, after an initial meeting I attended in March, to assist with updates and to learn more about the changes being made. The Circuit Court Clerk Webpage was reviewed and updated as necessary for the release of the new Website. Mia Kivilghan, Augusta County Communications Manager, met in June with our Webpage Committee, and assisted with the Circuit Court Clerk Webpage update. We also continued to update information on the Virginia Court System Website for the Augusta County Circuit Court as needed.
Research continued related to the cost and use of plastic card printers for Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) Cards issued by the Clerk’s Offices. I had a follow up meeting and visit with the Rockingham County Clerk’s Office to see the process they use with their CHP card printer. We have made the decision to purchase a CHP plastic card printer during the first quarter of 2022 and will be working with staff to implement this change for our citizens. After our initial research we have decided to put on hold offering United States Passports until additional staff can be obtained to provide this service.
In the area of Preserving and Promoting History we accomplished much in 2021. We continue to work with partners from the Augusta County Historical Society and Augusta County Genealogical Society in preserving and promoting Augusta County’s history. We continue to work with the Library of Virginia (LVA) Historic Records Staff, and with C.W. Warthen Kofile Technologies representative, Greg Brooks, to conserve and preserve Augusta County’s Historic Records. A new digital online historic record archive portal for Augusta County’s Historic Records was also developed and implemented by Matthew Wingfield, our Historic Records Assistant, at the beginning of 2021 making it easier for the public and researchers to access historic records.
In January we signed an agreement with the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge to administer the newly created Augusta County Court House Historic Records Fund. Seven donations were made to the fund in honor of the late John B. Davis, former Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk. The Daughters of the American Colonists Great Warriors Path Chapter also made a $100 donation. The most significant donation was made by the Augusta County Genealogical Society for $3,416 to restore early African American Voter Registration Books. The Historic Records Fund ended the year with a total of $4,786 in donations for 2021.
In March the application previously submitted to the Department of Historic Resources for a Virginia Historical Highway Marker for the Augusta County Courthouse, was approved by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. Approximately $2,000 in private donations were collected to erect the marker with contributions being made to the Augusta County Historical Society. The Augusta County Maintenance staff installed the pole and marker in June, and a dedication and unveiling ceremony was conducted in July with Chief Circuit Court Judge Chapman Goodwin and Augusta County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Butch Wells making remarks.
In August we developed a program and began to recruit Historic Records Volunteers to assist with the conservation and preservation of Augusta County’s Historic Records. Our Historic Records Assistant trained and supervised the work of the Historic Records Volunteers. Six volunteers contributed 263 hours during 2021. The Historic Records Volunteers are flattening and digitizing historic documents that are then uploaded to the online archive portal. The volunteers are also compiling, identifying, and completing an inventory of all of Augusta County’s Historic Records and documents under the stewardship of the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.
A $48,682 LVA Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) Grant application was submitted, and then awarded in December for eight important historic documents, including: Deed Book 6 (1745-1747), Order Book 17 (1779-1782), Register of Deaths (1871-1893), Will Book 16 (1827-1829), Will Book 19 (1833-1835), Will Book 21 (1835-1837), and Will Book 22 (1837-1839). Four preserved historic documents were received from a previous LVA CCRP Grant from 2020 in August, these restored documents were as result of work completed due to a $12,598 grant. During my term as Clerk of Circuit Court we have received a total of $74,849 in grant funding.
To promote a better understanding of the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office the Clerk’s Internship Program continued once again this year. We have now had eight students participate in our program through the end of 2021. The Clerk’s Interns were Hannah Davis, Mary Baldwin University; Blake Rodgers, Wilson Memorial High School; Culley Hess, James Madison University; Avery Morrison, Stuart Hall School; Ramona Shelton, College of William & Mary; Ben Allen, Stuarts Draft High School; Adryanna Reyes, Mary Baldwin University, and Dagon Wheeler, Fort Defiance High School.
For the goal of Seeking Input and Advice our office continues to make great progress. The Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Advisory Committee was formed in 2020 and continued to meet quarterly this year. The Advisory Committee met in April, July, and October. Membership on the Advisory Committee continues to include representation from the Augusta County Bar Association, Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, Augusta County Historical Society, Augusta County Genealogical Society, Staunton-Augusta County African American Research Society, Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia, the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, the Augusta County School Board, and at-large Augusta County Citizens.
I attended six meetings with my fellow Clerks of Circuit Court for the Virginia Court Clerk’s Association (VCCA), including the 111th Annual Convention in Charlottesville in August. In 2021 I was selected to serve as one of three Co-Chairmen of the VCCA Legislative Committee, and as a Member of the Public Relations Committee. In addition, I also attended seven meetings and events of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce (GARCC) and served as the Moderator of the GARCC Legislative Breakfast in December. It was my honor to serve as the virtual Commencement Speaker for Blue Ridge Community College Ceremony in May.
The Clerk’s Office developed a Power Point Presentation on the “Augusta County Circuit Court History & Operations” that was presented to six civic clubs and organizations. The groups included the Augusta County Genealogical Society, Churchville Ruritan Club, Staunton-Augusta County Rotary Club, Conservative Women of Augusta County, Daughters of the American Colonists Great Warriors Path Chapter, and Daughters of the American Revolution Sarah Murray Chapter.
Above and beyond meeting and working on the goals I set as Clerk, both the Clerk’s staff and I have worked to sharpen our skills and learn more about how our office can be more effective and efficient. To accomplish this all full-time staff are members of the VCCA. Becky Kimble, Deputy Clerk in our Probate Division, achieved the Master Deputy Clerk Certification this year bringing our total to six Deputy Clerks who have achieved that status. Three Deputy Clerks enrolled in 2021 to become a Master Deputy Clerk. All our remaining Deputy Clerks continue to take ongoing webinars and training. This year I completed and participated in 17 Webinars and WebEx meetings for training, and each staff member completed that many or more.
Fifteen staff evaluation meetings were conducted in February to review each staff members work progress for the year, and to review and set annual goals. In addition, our office had five Clerk’s Staff Meetings, and we are now having these meetings quarterly. I presented certificates, and we recognized Gina Coffey for 30 years of service, Suzanne Shifflett for 10 years of service, and Julie Sheffer for 10 years of service to Augusta County’s citizens. Beginning in April, and each month after, we began recognizing staff suggestions and ideas that help improve the work we do with the Clerk’s Light Bulb Award. Nine Clerk’s Light Bulb Award Certificates were presented in 2021. Clerk’s staff members also volunteered at the Augusta County Booth at the Augusta County Fair in July. The Clerk’s staff also raised and donated over $1,500 to charities in 2021. Each staff member who participated donated each week so they could then dress casually each Friday.
In September Gina Coffey was appointed as the Chief Deputy Clerk in the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office also filled one vacant full-time position and one new part-time position. The position of Deputy Clerk – Probate Assistant was advertised, candidates were interviewed, and Hunter Hopkins was hired for the position. The new part-time position of Records Assistant (which replaced the part-time Administrative Assistant position) was advertised, candidates were interviewed, and Pamela Heinrich was hired. Both new staff members will start in January of 2022. Faith Duncan, Augusta County Director of Human Resources, was once again extremely helpful during the entire process.
To continue to communicate the work of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office we issued 19 press releases on various topic and issues of interest to the citizens of Augusta County. These also continue to be posted on social media, and on my personal website for review as well. In addition, I have sent out 12 editions of Landes Letter Newsletters via email, and social media about the Clerk’s Office activities. During 2021 I administered Oaths 32 times, including individuals such as Substitute Judges in the 25th Judicial District, Augusta County Sheriff’s Deputies, Middle River Regional Jail Jailers, Augusta County Fire-Rescue Fire Fighters, Rockingham County Fire-Rescue Fire Fighters, and appointed and elected local officials such as recently elected and re-elected members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and Augusta County School Board.
Our Office continues to work with the Augusta County Maintenance staff to better utilized our Courthouse space and continued to make repairs and maintenance of the building a priority. Much work was completed on the Courthouse lawn and areas on the outside of the Courthouse. The County Maintenance staff has also continued to produced signage in the building as needed to better assist the public in finding various divisions of the Clerk’s Office, and the public men’s and women’s restrooms in the basement. Rusty Sprouse, Augusta County Director of Facility Maintenance, and his staff continue to be a great help in accomplishing necessary work at the Courthouse.
To honor the memory of former Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk John B. Davis, the Clerk’s staff collected funds to purchase a bench with a plaque, which the Augusta County Maintenance staff mounted on the front portico of the Courthouse. A ceremony was conducted in September to dedicate the bench, and present Memorial Resolutions from the VCCA and the Virginia General Assembly to Mrs. Patrice Davis and their sons, Joe, and Andrew. Delegate Chris Runion participated in the ceremony, along with many current and former Clerks of Circuit Court from across Virginia, and Augusta County officials.
It is my hope that you have found this second Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Report for 2021 of interest, and helpful. If you have any questions regarding this information, or the duties and responsibilities of the Circuit Court Clerk, please feel free to contact me at the Augusta County Court House at 540-245-5321, Ext. 100 or email me at [email protected]. Thank you for your interest in and support of the Augusta County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.