tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

Re-elect O'Neil to Pasco post

Of Pasco County incumbents up for re-election this year, none is more worthy of re-election than Paula O'Neil, the clerk of the circuit court and county comptroller. Elected in 2008 to succeed retiring longtime Clerk of Court Jed Pittman, O'Neil, 56, a Republican, has done a remarkable job under trying circumstances in one of government's most demanding positions. The clerk's office is responsible for managing the jury system, collecting fines, investing county funds, storing and maintaining evidence used in criminal proceedings, managing the jury system and filing and recording official documents and court records, among other duties. Due to $3 million in budget cuts, O'Neil has 100 fewer employees than when she took office four years ago, but the workload has increased substantially — especially foreclosure actions and other new cases. Yet she still has managed to significantly upgrade the office's operations — some aspects of which dated to the late 1970s — through electronic filing and other programs that have made the office and the court system more efficient for both the public and litigants. Meanwhile, since election O'Neil has completed her Ph.D. in applied management and decision sciences. She personally attends county commission meetings instead of sending a subordinate, which sends a strong message to the public that she takes her job very seriously. And she is a strong advocate for funding mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment in the community, among other causes she supports.
"The job has been an honor," says O'Neil, who previously spent more than 20 years working in government, including nine in the county's Community Services Division, before taking office four years ago. And she truly means it. Roberta Cutting, 53, of Zephyrhills, is challenging O'Neil. Cutting, who is running without party affiliation, is not a credible candidate. She says she is "100 percent for the people," but her reason for challenging O'Neil doesn't support that. She is bitter that O'Neil let her go as a volunteer — Cutting says she was an intern — and also claims the clerk "sabotaged" a position she had been hired for with a lawyer's office. O'Neil says Cutting was an "inappropriate fit" for the clerk's office and denies interfering with the employment opportunity. It's clear Cutting is running for the wrong reasons and that she is not qualified for the post. O'Neil, however, has demonstrated strong skills and leadership and gotten many things done over the past four years. We strongly endorse Paula O'Neil for another term as clerk of the circuit court.
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