1 of 2 hopefuls to emerge as clerk of courts

7 compete to replace register of wills

1 decisive race, 1 wide open

Maryland votes 2006

September 01, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

The Anne Arundel County clerk of the court is facing his first primary challenger since being elected in 1994, and the race for register of wills is wide open following the retirement of 20-year officeholder George M. Nutwell Jr., in two of this month's quieter political contests.

With no Democrat seeking to become clerk of the court, the race will end Sept. 12 with the Republican primary. Seeking a fourth term, Robert P. Duckworth, 66, of Crofton is facing Howard Neugebauer III, 23, of Pasadena.

The office's role is administrative, serving all clerical functions for the Circuit Court. Its 110 employees file all paperwork - land records, marriage licenses, lawsuits - submitted in thousands of civil, family and criminal cases. The clerk oversees an annual budget of about $5.5 million.

Neugebauer, who works for the clerk's office in Howard County, said if elected he would teach the public about the clerk's office and the records it maintains.

"If you don't know where and how to find them, it is going to cause you a lot of hassle down the road," he said. "More involvement with the community is my main goal."

Neugebauer has criticized the way the state has put land records - 10 million in Anne Arundel County - online through the clerks' offices, saying it has made "sensitive information" about people too easily accessible to anyone with a computer. Some of that information should be better protected, he said.

A former assistant in the Montgomery County clerk's office, he holds an associate's degree from Anne Arundel Community College and is working toward a bachelor's degree at the University of Baltimore. He was married earlier this year.

In his 12 years on the job, Duckworth, long active in Republican politics, has overseen much of the state-mandated computerization of the office, including the land records office.

"The one big thing I want to do over the next four years, and that is tough, is to have an electronic filing system," Duckworth said. That, he said, would eliminate the need for many people to come to the courthouse in Annapolis to file paperwork. He said he hopes the county can have a pilot project for e-filing.

Duckworth has been instrumental in the recent creation of a statewide professional development program for employees who work in clerks' offices.

He said the issue of sensitive information in electronic access has been raised in numerous contexts and is still being examined by the state judiciary and court clerks. The same information is already available on paper records and microfilm.

A former federal appointee and former chief deputy clerk, he has run unsuccessfully for Congress. He is a graduate of Catholic University. He and his wife of 39 years have two adult children.

The position of register of wills has drawn two Democrats and five Republicans to replace Nutwell, who made efficient, low-key and personal service a hallmark during his five terms in the little-known office in the county courthouse.

The office holds wills for safekeeping and is where estates are probated.

In recent years, some experts have called for making the register of wills an appointed job because its leader does not set political policy.

The Democrats seeking the job are registered nurse Jacqueline Boone Allsup, 58, of Glen Burnie and lawyer Jeff Gauges, 36, of Severna Park. They have praised the service of Nutwell's 16-person office.

"With my background and experience in administration, I think this is a position I am very well suited for, and my experience in budgeting," Allsup said.

Active in civic and Democratic circles, Allsup has previously sought other offices and lost and has held a variety of appointed positions, including serving as a member of the transition team for outgoing County Executive Janet S. Owens.

A nursing instructor at Anne Arundel Community College, Allsup is retired from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. There, she was assistant director of nurses for two of the department's facilities. She is a divorced mother of two grown children.

Admitted to the bar in 2001, Gauges has a law practice in Glen Burnie focused on estates and trusts as well as other civil matters and regularly brings him to the register of wills office.

"I know the people, and I know the law," said Gauges.

Gauges is serving a second term as an animal control commissioner in the county. The Illinois native served on the Scott County school board there.

He is not married and has no children.

The Republican candidates are Daniel E. Bowen, 24, of Glen Burnie; Walter N. Chitwood III, 58, of Annapolis, Nora C. Keenan, 42, of Cape St. Claire; Lauren M. Parker, 51, of Pasadena, and Thaddeus Russell, 57, of Annapolis.

Bowen said he has seen estate matters from a different perspective: his job as an associate banker for Bank of America in Annapolis since 2003.

"I think the office needs a little organization and a little energy," he said. He also said that he would heighten public awareness of the office and its services.

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