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.


Many articles, books, and papers have been written on leadership. It seems an ever elusive concept but a desirable trait among business professionals, the average Joe or Josephine, and especially politicians. Besides being a common dogma used to gain respect among voters, what exactly is leadership? A quick Google search reveals that the definition of leadership is the action of leading a group of people or organization. In addition, it is also the state or position of being a leader. Both definitions are relatively nebulous and really don’t express what we as individuals consider leadership in an individual.

But maybe that is the reason for its common use among those that seek to attain position. The meaning is nebulous yet projects a strength of character, a virtue, we all wish to attain and many seek to achieve. We can claim the trait of leadership without deceit by merely being placed in a position in which we are in charge of a group of people. But does this not confuse leadership with management?

The business dictionary definition goes well beyond just placing a person in charge of other individuals. Leadership under this definition “involves establishing a clear vision, providing information, knowledge, and methods to realize that vision and coordinating and balancing conflicting interests of members and stakeholders. A leader steps up in times of crisis and thinks and acts creatively in difficult situations” (BusinessDictionary.com, 2016). This definition is active and works better towards embracing the traits we come to expect of those that wish to lead us.

Management, on the other hand, is defined by the business directory as a coordination of activities of organization which includes the basic task of innovation (BusinessDictionary.com, 2016). In essence the basic tasks of management do not necessarily make you a leader or imbue you with leadership capabilities.

When choosing a candidate for office should we not seek the leader as well as the manager? Management skills can and should be essential to most positions. But we, when electing our public officers, are betting on the future. It is essential to have those that have a clear vision and the capability to implement that vision holding that position. The future is always changing. Crisis do happen. Strong leadership skills with proven leadership experience will ensure our county’s success in the face of crisis and in preparation for the future ahead.