Candidate Spotlight: Jason Bragg – Effingham County Superior Court Clerk

Join us as we chat with Jason Bragg, candidate for re-election as Effingham County Clerk of Superior Court.

Discussion includes: advancement in the office over the last 4 years, the financial position of the office, and plans for his next term, if re-elected.

This race will appear on the Republican ballot.

Election Day is May 21st. Early voting runs through May 17th.

Interview transcript below.

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Join us as we chat with Jason Bragg, candidate for re-election as Effingham County Clerk of Superior Court. Discussion includes: advancement in the office over the last 4 years, the financial position of the office, and plans for his next term, if re-elected. This race will appear on the Republican ballot.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Today we’re chatting with Jason Bragg, who is the Effingham County Clerk of Superior Court. The race is a contested one and also a partisan one, so it will appear on the Republican ballot on May 21st. Good morning and thank you so much for joining us.

Jason Bragg 
Good morning Jessica and thank you for having me.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Why don’t you just start off and give us a brief bio and background on yourself, your employment history, and just tell us a little bit about you.

Jason Bragg
I’m 40 years old, been in law enforcement 20 years. I have been in the clerk’s office as the current clerk of Superior Court for the last three and a half years. I am a proud Eagle Scout, grew up single family home in Swainsboro, moved to Effingham County in 2005, where I began working for the sheriff’s office shortly thereafter.

In 2020, I decided to run for clerk of superior court when Ms. Elizabeth Hersey decided that she was going to retire. Throughout my career, I’ve acquired a wealth of knowledge skills that have prepared me to handle various challenges in the field. I’m dedicated to making the positive impact, maintaining the highest standards of integrity and professionalism within the office.

Jessica Szilagyi 
I want to talk a little bit about what the clerk of court does because most people don’t know unless they either go to court or need something from your office.

Jason Bragg 
Sure. So the clerk of court is the official record keeper of the county. We hold all the criminal and civil records for superior state and juvenile courts. We’re the keeper of the land records. In my office, we have records that date back to the late 1700s. I’m also the administrator of the board of equalization, which hears tax appeals. I am the notary commissioner. So I issue all the notary publics for those that live in Effingham County. I’m also the jury commissioner which entails pulling juries and ensuring the integrity of the master jury list.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Everybody does things a little bit differently and you took over from your predecessor, I think at the, towards the end of 2020. But, do you want to talk about what kinds of things you’ve accomplished or what you’ve instituted since you took over the office?

Jason Bragg 
In August of 2020, I took over shortly after winning the runoff election. The office was a bit outdated. The office did not take credit card payments. We did not have imports from the agencies that we hold court for, such as the sheriff’s office or state patrol. So I was able to implement a system that would allow citations to be imported into our software to cut down on someone having to key those records manually, which has taken the human error out of it. 

Since taking office, we’ve been able to improve efficiency, transparency, and customer service. We’ve moved to a more digital environment, which allows us to provide those customers who cannot come into the office a way to access our office without being in the public record room. I’ve created a website that has a wealth of information forms, jury information, notary information, real estate and criminal record access. I have worked with the Georgia Superior Court Clerk’s Cooperative Authority in implementing the FANS filing activity notification system. This allows the public to register to receive notification when someone files anything against their name and or property address, i .e. liens, deeds, someone were to come into the office and file those. You would be notified if it was against your address and or your name, as long as you are set up to receive those notifications. That is a free service that we offer. 

I’ve also implemented an e-certification portal. I had numerous calls upon taking office, folks that were out of state needing a copy of their divorce decree. And we didn’t have a way to get them a certified copy of their divorce decree without them coming into the office paying for said decree. And if they’re out of state, obviously that’s not feasible for either of us. So we implemented in cooperation with the Clerks Authority, the e -certification portal. So you can now request a deed, a land record or criminal or civil case, and we can provide that to you as a certified document. 

Customer service has drastically improved. That was what I ran my campaign on last time. And I feel that the office has improved over the last three and a half years with, with my motto is treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter what. So I’ve also set up a quick survey. It’s a five question survey that folks are able to take to help us know that if we’re doing a good job or bad job. We want to know the good and the bad because that’s how we obviously get better and provide better customer service.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Well, great. So your office is also, I think it’s a constitutional office, but it’s autonomous in that, you know, you’re duly elected by voters, but you have to work with so many other elected officials, and not just the public on a near daily basis. How do you, how do you approach, I guess, having to balance the needs of helping other elected officials by but also respecting the boundary of what is and isn’t the responsibility of your office?

Jason Bragg 
Well, the clerk’s office is governed by laws and superior court rules, and that’s what we run our day to day on. I feel that I’ve worked with other elected officials to the very best of my ability. We do have our differences of opinions, but I try to stay within the rules and the laws all while working for the good of the citizens that we all serve.

Jessica Szilagyi 
And then you also have your own budget and finance, I guess, spending decisions. How would you summarize the position of the clerk’s office? And because there’s obviously costs associated with implementing some of these new things, but for the benefit of saving money over the long run. 

Jason Bragg 
So the financial position of the clerk’s office is in a great position. When I took office, we obviously, my salary was much less than my predecessor just because of the years of service. So I began to look at the budget and reallocate funds so that we could better pay our employees. 

The retention has always been an issue, but it’s not just a clerk’s office issue. It’s an employment issue. Statewide, private sector, government sector, it’s hard to retain employees. And especially if you don’t pay your employees what they are worth. We have employees making $12.91 an hour when I came into office that their responsibility was to ensure that your criminal history was updated and correct. Their responsibility was to ensure that every penny that comes into the office is allocated to a case and is therefore paid out at the end of each month. So we’ve added a few positions within our budget and the county finance. 

I work with the county finance to get an accountant in my office. We do somewhere between three and $5 million a year in and out.

With the growth that we’re seeing, we have been closer to that five mil that comes in, but also has to go out. So with our accountant, Michael has done a fantastic job in keeping us up to date and within the guidelines of our, within the guidelines of our budget. 

There has been some, some misinformation provided by the County as it pertains to the financial audit that was reported a couple months ago. The report indicated that there was an audit finding against me. Well, that’s just incorrect. I’ve never been contacted by the audit firm nor the county finance department about any audit findings. My accounting software vendor changed to a more intuitive accounting software, which has led us to better software or better keeping of our records. And Michael again has done a fantastic job at keeping us up to date, all while managing the day-to-day finances of the office. As far as reconciliation goes of our statements, that’s done on a month -to -month basis, and it’s done properly. 

During the first term, I’ve also been able to make many improvements in our office and help with the help of the clerk’s authority. So I come into the office, the front desk area was a bit outdated. They were all single desk wires running for the computers throughout the front just didn’t look very professional. So with the help of the clerk’s authority, we were able to find some funds to remodel the clerk’s office at no cost to the taxpayers of Effingham County, which was about $30,000 worth of remodeling that was ended up being done. Everyone was provided a workspace that was a little more private. 

As you know, in 2020, we were in the middle of our pandemic and it was a bit challenging to have workspace, but yet the breaks that you needed between each person’s workspace. So we have created that with four foot walls between each desk, which helps while they’re on the phone, it helps with keeping people separate, but also it gives them their own private workspace to do their day -to -day operations. 

So that’s just a few of the things that we’ve accomplished and that we’ve done dealing with the budget. I feel that we haven’t increased our budget a whole lot, especially considering the inflation that we have seen nationwide. I feel very good about it.

Jessica Szilagyi 
You kind of touched on it when you said you had a five question survey, and I’m sure that that goes into it, but how do you measure efficiency and effectiveness in your office and whether or not you guys are meeting your goals or service?

Jason Bragg 
Sure, so I think efficiency can be measured a couple different ways and over the last three and a half years we’ve moved to a more electronic record keeping. This allows us to have our information readily available to the public 24 -7, therefore it leads us to efficiency. We’ve seen a large increase in our online services and less people coming into our public record room. So we believe that what we are doing is not only effective but efficient.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Obviously you’ve accomplished a lot, but you are seeking another term. Are there other things you are seeking to still do or you just want to hold steady? Because technology is ever evolving. So do you want to talk about why you want another term and what you still have left to do?

Jason Bragg
I believe during my first term, Jessica, we have been able to accomplish a lot. We’ve been able to improve in so many areas and I want to continue to build on that during my next term, if the voters allow me a second term. 

I want to continue preservation of our historic documents, imaging them, indexing them so that they can be searched online and without having to come in and read the old English handwriting. I want to be able to explore other technology avenues that can help us better serve our citizens all while being physically, financially responsible. If it’s something that will cost us a bunch of money, such as the kiosk, which I mentioned in my first campaign that I would like to see a kiosk system go in to help folks on the South end of the county that can’t get up to the clerk’s office. But when I explored that, there wasn’t a vendor that could do it in a very financially savvy way. It was going to cost us a lot of money and it just wasn’t feasible for what we wanted to do when we could put most of our services online, which is what we have done. 

One of the main goals for me in the next term is to move the Board of Equalization to a paperless process. So we have anywhere between 600 and 800, 900 appeals each year. And each packet is eight or 10, 15 different sheets of paper, depending on how many properties and how many documents the tax assessor files. So I would like to move those board members over to a paperless environment. And that was brought to my attention by the board members. So they’re on board with moving to a paperless environment. So that’s one of my main goals for my next term.

As we move into the end of this year, provided I am given another term, we will look at doing that for them. And we’ll just continue to build as we move forward. Technology is going to evolve and we will always keep our eyes open to, you know, efficient, effective ways to better serve the citizens.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Why do you think you’re the most qualified candidate in this race?

Jason Bragg 
Well, with my education, bachelor’s degree, with my experience over 20 years of law enforcement experience, I feel I’m best qualified to continue serving as the clerk. 

Over the last three and a half years, I have worked to obtain my clerk of court certification through the Carl Vincent Institute of Government, which consists of 13 classes and a written paper. So provided everything goes as planned and the classes are still offered this year, we will hopefully I will be able to finish that certificate up, which is almost unheard of in the clerk’s world. When I came into office, I asked, how long does it take to obtain your certification? And clerks that have been in office two and three terms were telling me, it’s going to take two, if not three terms to get this certification. And I have worked to complete all the classes necessary minus the two and they’re supposed to offer those this year, which will essentially provide that I can have my certification within my first term. So that in itself is something I’m proud of. 

And I just think that being accessible to anyone that needs me and always being willing to help looking for ways to make things better for our citizens, lawyers, judges, and defendants. I am always available and willing to help. So that’s why I feel I’m the best qualified, the best and the most qualified candidate.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Is there anything else you want voters to know about you before election day?

Jason Bragg 
Well, I just respectfully ask each of you for your vote on May 21st. I’m dedicated to working for each of you to make your experience the best it can possibly be when dealing with the clerk’s office. I am always looking at ways to improve efficiency, transparency, and accessibility to your records. So please vote May 21st, Jason Bragg, Clerk of Court, Effingham County.

Jessica Szilagyi 
And just one more thing, in case people have any more questions or they want to reach out to you, where can they learn more about you?

Jason Bragg 
They can learn more about me at my website, jasonbragg4clerk.com or on Facebook at jasonbragg4clerkofsuperiorcourt. I can also be reached at my email jason@jasonbragg4clerk.com.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Great. Well, thank you so much for chatting with us and good luck on the campaign trail.

Jason Bragg 
Thank you, Jessica. Thank you for having me this morning.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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