Experience. An easy word that conjures up solid meanings to each individual who encounters it. It invokes such a strong positive imagery that every politician is sure to include it in their election vocabulary. The word is used so much that it has become as ubiquitous as weeds. Indeed, one would feel something amiss if the word wasn’t present in arguments for office.
But what is experience? Isn’t it something that would be desired in a candidate whether it be for work or political office? The answer would seem to be yes. However, some elements in our current political climate would argue the opposite, that experience wasn’t desirable. To them, experience is defined as advocating or being part of the current establishment and a continuation of the status quo. Such arguments may have merit.
Merriam Webster defines experience as “practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity.” (Merriam-Webster.com, 2016). If experience is defined as such, then it follows that those who claim experience can only claim it based on observing others who preceded them in the same activity, i.e. the current establishment. In this definition, experience ensures the status quo, but carries the risk of dampening new ideas or insights into current operations.
The Business Dictionary defines experience as “Familiarity with a skill or field of knowledge acquired over months or years of actual practice and which, presumably, has resulted in superior understanding or mastery.” (Businessdictionary.com, 2016). In this context, experience becomes much more than what’s learned through repetitive practice it becomes open to various forms of new ideas and inspirations. It allows for changes in the status quo, while ensuring that the focus of the task at hand is maintained.
When running for the office of Clerk of Court, should we seek the practical application of repetitive tasks or mastery of the field of knowledge? The Clerk of Court, by its stated nature in the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida, is an elected office. As an elected office, it is a by nature political. The Clerk’s office has well over 1,000 statutory laws to enforce. It also is the record-keeper for the County Commission, the auditor of the Commission, record-keeper for the County Courts, and comptroller of the County. The County Clerk wears many hats and the duties are constantly changing, based upon the whims and actions of courts, legislators, and citizens. The Clerk has to know the practical aspects of finance, personnel management and record keeping. But the Clerk must also interact on levels outside the practical, including politics, consensus building, legislation, and leadership.
Experience defined as practical at the level of Clerk of Court is beneficial. Experience defined as familiarity with the fields of knowledge involved allows not only for the implementation of the practical, but the added benefit of being able to successfully interact on all levels of a clerkship. This includes being open to new ideas, innovations, and inspirations and allowing for changes in the status quo, while ensuring that focus be maintained on the task at hand.