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Change on way to circuit court clerk’s office

Four candidates are seeking the office of circuit court clerk in the Carter County May Republican Primary
Three of the candidates — Johnny Blankenship, Tammy Arnold Kyviakidis and Donna McKinney — are now or have previously been employed by the office. Frank Peters, the fourth candidate, is a retired law enforcement officer and a former candidate for sheriff.
Blankenship, a former employee of the sheriff’s department, currently serves as the Circuit Court administrative assistant. He has worked for the county since 1993, when he began his employment with the sheriff’s department as a dispatcher.
Born and raised in the Stoney Creek community, Blankenship is a graduate of Unaka High School and attended East Tennessee State University.
Blankenship was employed by the sheriff’s department for 13 years before transferring to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in 2006.
He touts his experience working in the office as a plus and qualifying him as a candidate for the position, which is being vacated this year by John Paul Mathis.
Mathis has held the job since his election in 1998.
Blankenship said if elected a priority of his would be proper and conservative management of the office and the taxpayer dollars used to fund the office.
Candidate Tammy Arnold Kyviakidis, who is challenging Blankenship for the clerk’s post, has been employed in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office for 17 years, having been hired by Mathis’ predecessor, Luther McKeehan.
Like Blankenship, Kyviakidis cites her experience of being a longtime employee in the office as a prime qualification of her candidacy. During her time of employment in the office, Kyviakidis said she has performed duties in all the county’s courts. “I’ve touched base on a little bit of everything,” she said.
Currently, Kyviakidis is the Circuit Court bench clerk and jury coordinator and fills in for the foreman on grand juries.
The 47-year-old is the mother of two children, Thomas Cowan and Tiffany Kyviakidis.
The third candidate, who also has ties to the office, is Donna Hughes McKinney, a former employee.
McKinney, a lifelong resident of Elizabethton, is a 1977 graduate of Elizabethton High School.
She is married to Carter Eddie Honeycutt and has a daughter, Stephanie McKinney.
McKinney touts her business experience as a qualifying factor for the office.
All three — Blankenship, Kyviakidis and McKinney — say if elected they will take ownership of the office and operate it efficiently and make it business friendly to the public.
In the past the office has been cited by the Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office for several long-term accounting problems, which date back to 2004.
Although John Paul Mathis, the current Circuit Court Clerk, has taken ownership of the problem, blaming it partially on the office’s conversion to new software, the audits have provided some ammunition for Frank Peters, who is the only candidate for the office in the Republican Primary who has not been associated with it.
During his campaign, Peters has repeatedly referred to the state audits and the office’s accounting problems. “This office has had problem after problem. I think it’s time for a change,” Peters said.
He, too, touts his experience in the court system as a major qualification of his candidacy. Peters worked in law enforcement with the Johnson City Police Department from 1978 until his retirement on Jan. 2, 2013.
As an investigator the last 25 years he was with the JCPD, Peters said he worked with every court in Johnson City and prosecuted thousands of cases.
He said he is confident his law enforcement experiences have prepared him for the office of Circuit Court Clerk.
Peters is married to Angie Peters, an employee of the Elizabethton School System. He is the father of three sons, Jason, Lance and Luke Peters.
All four candidates say changes need to be made in the office, and each feels the office is among the most important in the court system.
The winner of the Republican Primary will face John “Buddy” Street, who is running as an Independent in the August General Election.