Stone County voters left little doubt last Tuesday that they were ready for a change in the Circuit Clerk’s office.
Treba Parker Davis received nearly 68 percent of the 5,271 votes that were counted to unseat first-term clerk Jeffrey O’Neal.
The results included machine and absentee ballots but did not include affidavit ballots.
“Toward the end of the campaign, I started feeling like I was going to win,” Davis said. “I didn’t expect it to be that much of a difference.”
Davis, who had 10 years of experience working as a deputy clerk under former Circuit Clerk Kenny Hatten, said she was excited about assuming office, although she expects it will be an uphill job.
“There’s going to be difficulties,” she said.
O’Neal has had to appear in Circuit Court twice this year in connection with irregularities in the office.
In the spring, he appeared in Hancock County Circuit Court before Judge Christopher Schmidt after the state auditors office charged him with failing to file annual financial reports.
He brought those up to date for the years in question but then was ordered to appear before the court to show cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failure to file orders and commitments.
In that case, all four judges were present in the Harrison County Circuit Court and gave O’Neal until Nov. 22 to file a report on his progress.
He is due to appear once again in front of the judges Dec. 13.
“I would hop all of that is cleared up before Jan. 1, when I take office,” Davis said. “If not, how does that get handled? There’s going to be a lot of work to do.”
She will also have to assemble her own staff and see to it that they are trained.
“We have a Presidential primary in the spring and a Presidential election in November, and that’s on top of Circuit Court meeting twice and the other basic stuff that happens in the office,” she said. “Somebody would have to be there an entire year to get the basic experience.”
Davis, who ran for the office in 2015 when Hatten retired, admitted to disappointment at the initial loss.
“Honestly, I gave it to God and left it in His hands,” she said.
She now feels somewhat vindicated by the election’s results.
“”I’m glad the voters saw now what I saw then,” she said. “I’m eager to get to work restoring integrity and transparency to the office of Stone County Circuit Clerk.”
There were three other contested races in the county.
In District 2, incumbent Supervisor Daniel Harris, running as an Independent, defeated Republican James Snowden and Democrat Andy Blanchard.
Harris had 583 votes to 220 for Snowden and 206 for Blanchard.
In District 3, Republican incumbent Lance Pearson defeated Independent candidate Dusty Rhodes 794-236.
In the race for West Side Constable, Republican Mike Allen defeated Independent Brandon Reid 1,727-566.
All county elected officials will take their oaths of office at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 2 in a ceremony at the Stone County Court House.