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Election 2019: DeFrancesch & Joseph in the running for Clerk of Court; Candidates talk accessibility, customer service

LAPLACE — Peggy Millet-Joseph has traveled to clerk of court offices around the state as legislative aide to Representative Randal Gaines, and she’s taken note of ways the St. John the Baptist Parish office can improve in structure.

She’s challenging incumbent Eliana DeFrancesch, who has served as St. John Clerk of Court for 19 years. The Clerk of Court’s Office is always expanding and evolving, according to DeFrancesch, who has strived to modernize systems to bring better accessibility of court filings to residents.

Election Day is Oct. 12 in St. John Parish, and only one candidate will fill the role of Clerk of Court to oversee jury duty, civil and criminal filings, expungements, passports, marriage licenses, real estate transfers, access to birth certificates and more.

Customer Service

At its core, the Clerk of Court’s Office is a public service agency, according to Eliana DeFrancesch. With locations at the Edgard Courthouse, the Arcuri Center on Cambridge Drive in LaPlace and an office soon to come to the new St. John Parish Government Building, staff members are placed throughout the parish to assist the public. Opening the Arcuri Center in LaPlace was one of the advancements DeFrancesch has fought for since taking office in 2000.

She said social skills and a willingness to work with others are necessary characteristics of the Clerk of Court. Employees are cross-trained to handle multiple tasks, she said.

“We are here to serve the public, and that’s what we do,” DeFrancesch said. “We do it without tax-based funds from the Parish. It is a self-generated office from the (court) fees that we collect that are mandated by the Louisiana legislature.”

Peggy Millet-Joseph said there are several ways the local Clerk of Court offices can improve customer service, starting with waiting areas and private spaces.

“When you go places and see that things are supposed to be done differently and it’s a better situation, I don’t think St. John deserves any less than that,” Millet-Joseph said. “We are a great parish. I think we should be a model parish for the others. The way the other offices are structured, you have privacy when you go in to file papers or to discuss any kind of certificates you may need.”

The St. John offices are open, limiting the privacy of those who request information at the front window. She said the St. John Clerk of Court locations should have better waiting areas and prompt service.

“In other offices, I’m called immediately and directed exactly were I have to go,” Millet-Joseph said. “I’m not going to lie; I’ve heard some horror stories about ours, not to slight the employees. I’ve heard from citizens, and I want to make a difference. We don’t have to wait for hours. We should be more efficient.”

Advancements

DeFrancesch, a graduate of Louisiana State University, has experience as a businesswoman and a schoolteacher extending well past her 19 years of service as Clerk of Court.

When first elected, DeFrancesch went to the legislature to increase jurors’ daily pay from $18 to $25. She also saw to it that jurors are paid the day they attend court or at the end of their service, whereas the payment process once took much longer.

Over the years, she has set goals for herself and met them in terms of modernizing the office to fit advancing technology. Court filings are now digitized, and computers are available to people who come in to conduct public records searches.

“My whole intent even in the beginning was to have all of our records online, and that is coming to fruition,” DeFrancesch said. “Now everything has fallen into place. The infrastructure is here. We received a grant to go ahead and have the records online. That will be happening in the next couple of weeks.”

In the coming months, e-filing for the civil department will also be available to the public. On the Clerk of Court Facebook page, DeFrancesch and staff release information on jury duty, elections and closings. There is a new Clerk’s Office online portal that will soon be available for the public to view additional records for a nominal fee.

Online platforms are secure, and there are documents that trace back to the 1800s. DeFrancesch said the Clerk’s Office also partners with the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office to share documents.

Millet-Joseph would like to see improved communication channels with residents, which would include building a more user-friendly website.

“I want to continue the services but add structure to the office,” Millet-Joseph said. “My mission is to make sure our residents are pleased.”

Public Service

Millet-Joseph desired to run for Clerk of Court years ago but held off until she thought DeFrancesch was retiring. Though DeFrancesch is running for office again, Millet-Joseph said she plans to maintain a positive relationship with her opponent.

Being elected Clerk of Court is a dream for Millet-Joseph, who loves working hard and challenging herself. Before she was a good leader, she was an effective follower who learned the importance of respect.

Millet-Joseph is a graduate of Leon Godchaux High School and a graduate of Meadows-Draughon College with a degree in business management. She graduated and received a license/certification from Joslyn Daspit College, and she is also a certified marriage facilitator from Franklin Covey Healthy Marriage.

“I know I have to use authority to get things done, but in a passionate way,” Millet-Joseph said. “I believe if you are passionate with your employees, you get more work done. I want to make sure everything is done in the spirit of excellence.”

Millet-Joseph has served as a chairperson on many boards, including the River Parishes Tourist Commission, Economic Development and the Economic Democratic Executive Party in St. John Parish. She’s also been director of music in her church, and she plans to visit numerous churches and public meetings if elected.

DeFrancesch, the wife of Fred DeFrancesch, is blessed with three children and five grandchildren. She is a member of the Rotary Club of LaPlace, where she was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow for service.

She is also a member of the following: Louisiana Clerk of Court’s Association; the International Association of Clerk’s, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers; the

Property Records International Association; the National Education Association; the St. John Community Action Committee; and former Secretary of the Timbermill Association in Garyville.

DeFrancesch and Millet-Joseph each have campaign pages available on Facebook.

LAPLACE — Peggy Millet-Joseph has traveled to clerk of court offices around the state as legislative aide to Representative Randal Gaines, and she’s taken note of ways the St. John the Baptist Parish office can improve in structure.

She’s challenging incumbent Eliana DeFrancesch, who has served as St. John Clerk of Court for 19 years. The Clerk of Court’s Office is always expanding and evolving, according to DeFrancesch, who has strived to modernize systems to bring better accessibility of court filings to residents.

Election Day is Oct. 12 in St. John Parish, and only one candidate will fill the role of Clerk of Court to oversee jury duty, civil and criminal filings, expungements, passports, marriage licenses, real estate transfers, access to birth certificates and more.

Customer Service

At its core, the Clerk of Court’s Office is a public service agency, according to Eliana DeFrancesch. With locations at the Edgard Courthouse, the Arcuri Center on Cambridge Drive in LaPlace and an office soon to come to the new St. John Parish Government Building, staff members are placed throughout the parish to assist the public. Opening the Arcuri Center in LaPlace was one of the advancements DeFrancesch has fought for since taking office in 2000.

She said social skills and a willingness to work with others are necessary characteristics of the Clerk of Court. Employees are cross-trained to handle multiple tasks, she said.

“We are here to serve the public, and that’s what we do,” DeFrancesch said. “We do it without tax-based funds from the Parish. It is a self-generated office from the (court) fees that we collect that are mandated by the Louisiana legislature.”

Peggy Millet-Joseph said there are several ways the local Clerk of Court offices can improve customer service, starting with waiting areas and private spaces.

“When you go places and see that things are supposed to be done differently and it’s a better situation, I don’t think St. John deserves any less than that,” Millet-Joseph said. “We are a great parish. I think we should be a model parish for the others. The way the other offices are structured, you have privacy when you go in to file papers or to discuss any kind of certificates you may need.”

The St. John offices are open, limiting the privacy of those who request information at the front window. She said the St. John Clerk of Court locations should have better waiting areas and prompt service.

“In other offices, I’m called immediately and directed exactly were I have to go,” Millet-Joseph said. “I’m not going to lie; I’ve heard some horror stories about ours, not to slight the employees. I’ve heard from citizens, and I want to make a difference. We don’t have to wait for hours. We should be more efficient.”

Advancements

DeFrancesch, a graduate of Louisiana State University, has experience as a businesswoman and a schoolteacher extending well past her 19 years of service as Clerk of Court.

When first elected, DeFrancesch went to the legislature to increase jurors’ daily pay from $18 to $25. She also saw to it that jurors are paid the day they attend court or at the end of their service, whereas the payment process once took much longer.

Over the years, she has set goals for herself and met them in terms of modernizing the office to fit advancing technology. Court filings are now digitized, and computers are available to people who come in to conduct public records searches.

“My whole intent even in the beginning was to have all of our records online, and that is coming to fruition,” DeFrancesch said. “Now everything has fallen into place. The infrastructure is here. We received a grant to go ahead and have the records online. That will be happening in the next couple of weeks.”

In the coming months, e-filing for the civil department will also be available to the public. On the Clerk of Court Facebook page, DeFrancesch and staff release information on jury duty, elections and closings. There is a new Clerk’s Office online portal that will soon be available for the public to view additional records for a nominal fee.

Online platforms are secure, and there are documents that trace back to the 1800s. DeFrancesch said the Clerk’s Office also partners with the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office to share documents.

Millet-Joseph would like to see improved communication channels with residents, which would include building a more user-friendly website.

“I want to continue the services but add structure to the office,” Millet-Joseph said. “My mission is to make sure our residents are pleased.”

Public Service

Millet-Joseph desired to run for Clerk of Court years ago but held off until she thought DeFrancesch was retiring. Though DeFrancesch is running for office again, Millet-Joseph said she plans to maintain a positive relationship with her opponent.

Being elected Clerk of Court is a dream for Millet-Joseph, who loves working hard and challenging herself. Before she was a good leader, she was an effective follower who learned the importance of respect.

“I know I have to use authority to get things done, but in a passionate way,” Millet-Joseph said. “I believe if you are passionate with your employees, you get more work done. I want to make sure everything is done in the spirit of excellence.”

Millet-Joseph has served as a chairperson on many boards, including the River Parishes Tourist Commission, Economic Development and the Economic Democratic Executive Party in St. John Parish. She’s also been director of music in her church, and she plans to visit numerous churches and public meetings if elected.

DeFrancesch, the wife of Fred DeFrancesch, is blessed with three children and five grandchildren. She is a member of the Rotary Club of LaPlace, where she was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow for service.

She is also a member of the following: Louisiana Clerk of Court’s Association; the International Association of Clerk’s, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers; the

Property Records International Association; the National Education Association; the St. John Community Action Committee; and former Secretary of the Timbermill Association in Garyville.

DeFrancesch and Millet-Joseph each have campaign pages available on Facebook.