STARKVILLE — For the first two weeks of Angie McGinnis’ 16-year term as Oktibbeha County circuit clerk, she walked around the courthouse in a daze.
In a small, two-room, one-vault office, everything that was thrown at McGinnis made her question if she’d ever catch up. Even after spending four years as deputy clerk, she was overwhelmed.
But learning any and everything about legal filing, conducting circuit court terms and voting laws turned McGinnis into a sponge. She craved the knowledge, and with so much and so many different things to do, McGinnis adjusted her mind to operate at a fast tempo.
“The toughest think is getting it all in a row before you can even start getting things done,” said McGinnis, who isn’t seeking re-election this term.
As much fun as McGinnis has had over the past 16 years, is hasn’t been easy. The same break-neck pace and efficiency McGinnis developed in Year 1 is still in effect.
Her first day of retirement in 2012 will feel foreign, but not as much as the first week. McGinnis has limited vacation times to around the holidays so she could take four days off instead of a full five, all because she didn’t want to be out of the office that extra day.
So on the eighth day of retirement, that’s when McGinnis will again feel “in a daze.”
“People ask me all the time, are you getting anxious or ready?'” McGinnis said. “My response is no, because the day I came in I was working. I feel like the last day I’m here, I’ll be working. I know it’s going to take a while to kind of unwind.”
McGinnis, by her own admission, still has plenty left in the tank. One of the factors in her decision to not seek re-election was politics. McGinnis said the political climate, as whole, is negative now.
McGinnis, though, shoots it straight. She knows some of her opinions and methods are old-school.
“Sometimes, when you do the same thing day in and day out for so many years, you get set in your ways,” McGinnis said. “I think that’s what’s happened to me. And when I see new folks come in that maybe could do it a little bit differently … it’s maybe caused me to have a little bit of cynicism and be a little bit critical. This office doesn’t have any place for that. That was the Lord’s way of telling me it’s time for you to do something else.”
McGinnis has a trail of admirers, from other elected officials and poll workers to the two candidates looking to win her office on Tuesday.
“She’s done an excellent job, in my opinion,” said Democratic candidate Teresa-Davis Roberson. “We need to trust that the circuit clerk”s office will run as smoothly when she’s gone with the next person coming in.”
“(If elected) there will be no radical changes (in office personnel or policy). I don’t see the need for them. Mrs. McGinnis has done a very satisfactory job,” said Republican Glenn Hamilton.
McGinnis has helped the office transition through several filing system changes, including switching from a straight physical docket book filing system, to dual format (docket and computer) to computer only.
In 2004, Oktibbeha was one of 11 pilot counties for the current Statewide Election Management database system.
“We could be 100 percent paperless at this point,” McGinnis said. “In some ways I’m surprised we aren’t, but then again I’m not. My generation, by in large, are sitting on the court and in the clerk’s office. We still are not thinking along those lines of total innovation.”
Since McGinnis took office, the circuit clerk’s office has moved from the courthouse to the annex, located a block away. The annex was a significant upgrade from the courthouse, which featured two courtrooms, two jury rooms and three circuit court judges. The circuit court still handles appeals from municipal and justice court, too.
“Being located down here has made a lot of things about the job easier,” McGinnis said., “but it has created more court days. There’s a lot more court dates now that fall in between circuit terms.”
Voter registration laws and options have changed considerably since that time, too. When McGinnis became a deputy clerk in ’89, voter registration was limited to the clerk’s office or city hall. Today, voters can register at any federal agency, which means McGinnis’ staff must have constant correspondence with each office to keep records current.
Retirement won’t be an easy transition for McGinnis. Even her first vacation plans seem work-related, as she plans to go to Washington D.C. to soak up some of the political history and tour the capitol.