When I took Office as clerk of Rockdale Superior and State Courts in 2009, we were already on the road to court technology advances owing to the foresight of my predecessor, the Honorable Joanne Caldwell, who held the office for 23 years. She and her courts and justice partners (sheriff, all Rockdale courts, and district attorney) had the wisdom to purchase an integrated Case Management System that linked these multiple agencies. Rockdale was the first in the state of Georgia to take that leap. We were on the bleeding edge of technology because it was so new. The initial implementation had lots of hiccups and shortcomings, and the Clerk’s Office did not have the technical expertise to smooth them out. That’s where I came in with 26 years of technology leadership experience with AT&T. We have not only smoothed out most of the hiccups, but we have taught this baby a few new tricks as well.
Back in the day, you had to do business with us strictly during business hours. If you needed the answer to a specific question, you had to almost hit the lottery to catch that person at their desk. There was no voicemail so you could leave a message any time of day or night. There was no website where you could get most of your questions answered. If you had to pay a traffic citation, you probably had to take a day off your job to come to court.
Now, most people can pay traffic citations online any time of day or night and not have to personally appear. These days we offer online attorney access to documents and remote electronic attorney filing of civil documents. Beyond that, we have automated and streamlined our jury management process. We can now offer remote online access to real estate documents. We are much easier to do business with because we have a dedicated website that is a treasure trove of court-related information and services.
Attorneys are no longer required to come to the courthouse to review their cases because we provide them remote access. That frees them to better serve their clients. And the list of process improvements, new services and conveniences goes on and on.
Gone are the days when an employee would spend days and weeks doing nothing but putting labels on paper file folders. With the implementation of eFiling, we are much less paper dependent. We receive and generate a lot less paper, which helps to relieve some of the pressure on our limited storage space in our historic courthouse. We have scanned and digitized decades of court and real estate records, which protects and preserves them for posterity and also makes them remotely accessible by multiple users simultaneously.
We perform multiple backups and most of our infrastructure has moved or will soon move to the cloud. That means cost efficiencies and much greater protections from viruses and network interruptions. The fact that we have our own court technology specialists in-house has made a huge difference in our ability to respond to emerging opportunities and threats.
We are diligent stewards of public funds. We implemented Integrated Financial Management Software, upgraded our skills and tools, and developed sound financial policies and procedures. All of this is to protect the public interest and public funds. We have consistently produced 100% clean external audits and grand jury reviews as required by law. We are efficient, transparent, and charitable and create a positive impact on our community. Not all offices can say all of that.
All of this progress and preparation for the future depends upon carefully selected, effectively led and fairly compensated employees. Change is hard and takes time. It also takes people who are willing to let go of some of their comforts in order to do more and to do better for more of the public. The Rockdale Clerk of Courts Office is fortunate to have a team of change-makers and chain-breakers. We are no longer tied to the “It’s ALWAYS Been Done That Way” thinking. We are much less paper dependent and much more technically nimble. This means we are able to not just work hard, but also to work smart. That translates into effective stewardship of public funds, high quality customer service, responsiveness to the needs of the courts and treating every individual with respect and courtesy.
We have taken extra measures to ensure that our employee body is the best and most capable it can be. I am proud to say that we have a wonderful team that has risen to every challenge put before them. There have been multiple changes in technology, organizational relationships, job descriptions, process improvements, legislation, budget challenges, working conditions and more. Still, they perform at a very high level, frequently exceeding the expectations of the public we serve.
We love what we do to help the people and agencies we serve. It has been a fulfilling 10 years, and it has been my great honor to serve as clerk. We are Preserving the Past While Preparing for the Future.