Inside and outside of Oakland

Oakland County and Michigan plan for election transitions

  Oakland County circuit judges are expected to meet early next week to decide on a process for picking a new county clerk while Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson plans to transition to her new job as Michigan Secretary of State.

  The election of Johnson as Michigan Secretary of State Tuesday means her job as county clerk will be vacant when she takes her new office in January.
  "Judges will be getting together very shortly to determine the process," Oakland Circuit Chief Judge Nanci J. Grant said Thursday. "Ultimately, in the end, it will be a vote of the entire circuit court bench."
  So far, Oakland County Commissioner Bill Bullard, R-Highland, has indicated an interest in replacing Johnson, but more applicants are expected once the judges determine a process.
  Other names in the rumor mill are former circuit Judge Fred Mester, Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub and former congressional candidate Paul Welday.
  Grant said the judges will likely pick a replacement for Johnson before the end of the year, more for reasons of continuity than any concern that the office can't function without Johnson.
  "She has an excellent staff," Grant said. "We're not concerned the office will stop running."
  It will not be the first time the Oakland County circuit bench has appointed a clerk.
  When Clerk Lynn D. Allen retired in 1998, the bench tagged Deputy Clerk G. William Caddell as his successor.
  Johnson, coincidentally, defeated Caddell in the 2004 Republican primary and won the seat that year and again in 2008.
  In Lansing, meanwhile, another transition is underway as term-limited Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land prepares to leave office and Johnson readies to replace her.
  "The good news  is we've left the budget in place for three years," Johnson said of the county clerk's office. "A person comes in with everything in place for three lean years.
  "We're leaving them with a great budget and everything's in place. I want to make it a seamless transition," she said.
  The same is true in Lansing, Johnson said.
  "Terri Lynn Land has given me an open door to the office," said Johnson who is putting together both a transition committee and advisory council.
  The advisory council will be formed by Nov. 9 and subcommittees two days after that. A draft of how Johnson plans to operate the secretary of state office will be prepared by Dec. 3 and a final draft Dec. 16.
  "Ruth will be meeting with key staff about the transition to the office," said Stu Sandler, the chairman of Johnson's transition team.
  "Ruth is going to evaluate the department from top to bottom, how to make secretary of state more convenient," Sandler said.
  Some new initiatives, he said, could involve public-private partnerships.
  "I think she also wants to look into tougher enforcement of elections laws and whether the department can take that on with a more aggressive role," Sandler said.
  Ken Silfven, a spokesman for the current secretary of state, said documents about procedures, issues, the budget and secretary of state programs have already been prepared.
  "The transition is already underway to an extent," Silfven said. "Obviously the more information they can get before Day 1, the better."
  Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc.

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