Clerk candidates gather for debate

Published 5:00 pm Monday, May 2, 2022

Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel faced challengers Jennifer Barnett and Lisa Senters in the third debate of the election season Thursday at the Middlesboro Community Center. All three debates have been hosted by The Big One, the first between candidates for Middlesboro mayor, the second between candidates for Bell County jailer.

Gambrel is seeking election to a third term. She has spent 25 years in the clerk’s office and eight years as clerk. Barnett has worked in the public sector since she was 15. She lives in Pineville, has worked for a law firm for several years, and previously worked the clerk’s office for seven years. Senters has worked several different positions in Bell County but currently works at the water company. She cites her 36 years of experience in customer service, along with a knowledge of computers and bookkeeping, as making her uniquely qualifed for the position.

When asked about their strengths and weaknesses, Senters said a strength is always putting others before herself; this is also her weakness, because she has a love for people. Gambrel said she is a worrier and doesn’t want to disappoint. She said her strength comes from the Lord, along with 25 years of experience in the office. Barnett sets goals for herself and strives to meet them. She said it is hard for her to sit back and relax because she feels that she has to always be productive.

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All of the candidates mentioned comfortability in the workplace for all employees as a priority. Gambrel allows her employees to talk with one another when customers are not present and doesn’t put a lot of pressure on them. She also doesn’t allow them to be rude to each other or to customers. Senters would want to learn each position and cross-train the employees so she can function the same as them. Barnett would want her employees to feel like she is on the same level as them and wants them to feel like they are just as important as she.

The importance of audits returning no deficiencies was discussed. While Senters has never been through an audit, she expressed confidence that with the help of the employees, she could handle the task. Both Barnett and Gambrel said that it is all about internal control and making sure each employee is honest. Gambrel mentioned that the money is currently checked multiple times before it is sent to the state.

In closing statements, Senters said that everyone wants change, and a lot of people know her on a first name basis. Barnett has ideas that are feasible and would like to incorportate more services in the Middlebsoro office. Gambrel mentioned a few things she has done during her time in office and said if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.