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County official: Miller 'holds us all together'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

When Linda Miller joined the Clayton County Clerk of Superior Court's Office as a 17-year-old, part-time, clerk typist in 1969, the "high-tech" machines used by the staff of nine to handle information were typewriters.

Four decades later, a staff of 24 in the office -- which is now run by Miller as the Clerk of the Superior and Magistrate courts -- uses computers to keep track of records. And, if Miller gets her way, the future may hold paperless records-keeping systems.

After 40 years in the office, Miller, 58, said she still enjoys her job, and is not ready to say when she will settle down for retirement. She considered retiring at the end of 2008, but she said several local officials, and residents, talked her into sticking around.

"I really enjoy what I do," she said. "It's a challenging job every day, but I have a wonderful staff that supports me ... I really do care about what happens to this office. It's been a wonderful experience for me."

Miller was recognized last week by the Clayton County Board of Commissioners for her 40 years of service to the county. She has been the Clerk of the Superior Court of Clayton County since 1993. She became the Clerk of Courts in 1995, when the Magistrate Clerk's Office was added under her auspices, she said.

Her duties include more than record-keeping, however. She is also in charge of making sure the courts have enough jurors to conduct trials, and she overseas the real estate division for the courts as well.

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said Miller was recognized with a crystal plaque for the way she runs her office, and for her longevity. Bell said she is the longest-serving, active employee of the county. "I think she is one of the outstanding employees of the county, and I will go further to say she is one of the outstanding citizens of this county," he said.

When Miller joined the clerk's office in 1969, she was still a student at what was then called Jonesboro Senior High School. At the time, the high schools had what was called "distributive education" courses, which meant upperclassmen could leave school at 1:30 p.m., to go to work, she said. Miller said she was not thinking about spending the rest of her working life in the clerk's office, let alone that she would, one day, be elected to succeed Joe B. Mundy, the man who hired her.

Miller said she started out in the real estate division, typing deeds until 1971, when she began working in courtrooms, typing documents and orders for judges. "Everything that a judge signed, I had to type it all, word for word," Miller said.

In the 1970s, computers were introduced into the office, but Miller said the court system was still not where it is today, in terms of computer technology. At first, the court clerk's office used the computers to type information into a database. That database was not tied to the other offices in the court system, so every other office, from the judges to the district attorney, to the sheriff's department, had to re-type the information in the database.

By the time she became the clerk of Superior Court in 1993, however, the court system, along with the law enforcement departments, were moving to an integrated computer records-keeping system where the departments shared documents, and eliminated the need to re-type information. Miller also pushed judges to begin using computers in their courtrooms to type in their orders.

In 2006, her office began using a paperless-system to keep track of tax-lien records. Through this system, documents are scanned into a computer, and then returned to the person who created them. It was a move that cut her office's expenses by more than $30,000, she said. Miller said the change came in handy as the economy began to struggle, and agencies across the county and the state had to cut costs. "That kept me from having to cut some staff," she said.

Miller said the next step she wants to take is moving her office to an "e-filing system" for criminal and civil records, which would also be paperless. The federal court system uses a similar method of filing documents, in which lawyers and officials can file court documents online, and communicate with one another electronically.

Miller said work will begin next month, with judges, and representatives from the county's other criminal justice departments, on developing that system. "I predict that within the next 10 years, all clerk's offices across the state will be that way," she said, explaining that many are already moving toward online records-keeping systems.

Bell praised Miller for embracing technology and finding ways to cut expenses in her office, without cutting efficiency. "I don't know of anyone who takes better care of resources, better than she does," he said.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Clayton County has "the greatest clerk of court in the state" in Miller. The Superior Court Clerk Association of Georgia apparently agrees. In 2007, the organization named Miller as its Superior Court Clerk of the Year.

Lawson praised Miller for her pursuit of new technology initiatives, and said that calling the clerk's office under Miller "efficient" would "be an understatement."

"The court system would collapse without Linda Miller," Lawson said. "She is the integral part that holds us all together."