For 15.5 years Barbara Butler has served Hendry County as its Clerk of Courts and Comptroller. She took office in January 2001.
She has years as a certified paralegal before ever being elected to her current position. She worked for Clewiston attorney Jack Rafter – who served as attorney for the City of Clewiston and the Board of County Commissioners of Hendry County as well as other clients until his death, then for attorney John Yaun. While working with Attorney Rafter she helped build from scratch, and was part owner of Everglades Abstract & Title Co., from 1976 until 2000, along with overseeing its daily operations, and of the law office. Thus, she has a total of over 30 years experience in the legal field and has closed over millions of dollars in real estate sales and financing.
Ms. Butler notes that she is certified by the Supreme Court Justice of the State of Florida as a Certified Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller and is also a certified member of the Property and Evidence Association of Florida to handle evidence in Court.
Ms. Butler points out the Clerk’s Office has a huge job that encompasses 926 individual responsibilities. One of the Clerk’s duties is to help the Judges in and outside of the courtroom, as well as summon all jurors, keep records of all proceedings in the courtroom and maintain all evidence admitted in court. In the recording department, there are legal requirements for each and every document that is recorded that must be met before they are recorded.
“There is a lot about the Clerk’s Office that people don’t realize,” she notes. Most people are not aware until the death of a loved one that the Clerk’s Office sells the cemetery lots located in all of the cemeteries in Hendry County. The office handles the petitions filed on behalf of the Value Adjustment Board, along with all the tax deed processes and auctions. She also handles the applications for marriage licenses and the strict guidelines for applications for passports.
Changes in all the Clerk’s processes come often and must be updated, tracked and detailed, so training never stops and is continued annually. Since 2014, the State Legislature has cut the Clerk’s budget by 20 percent. Unfortunately, she’s had to lay off several employees and cut some positions through attrition, however, the office has the same amount of work. With a small budget means a short staff, so the Clerk fills in wherever necessary and even does court docket sheets at home after hours. It’s a challenge just to keep up with the Florida Supreme Court mandates with time limits but, happy to say, the Clerk’s Office is up to date. In the past 15.5 years, the Clerk’s Office has grown from pencil and paper to the 21st Century. There are no longer paper files. Most criminal and all of civil pleadings are electronic. They are in the process of scanning the old files into the electronic system so attorneys of record and parties to a case can see their files online.
Ms. Butler stated one of her main responsibilities is to keep an eye on the county’s budget. In fact, the Clerk is personally responsible for seeing to it that all monies are spent for the benefit of the taxpayers of this County. Ms. Butler notes that the Clerk’s Office does not set the budget for the county; it only oversees it once the County Commissioners adopt it. She is proud to say that all of her audits have been perfect for years – state audits plus end of the year audits by independent audit companies. She notes that the County is solid financially – but there is no “extra money.” In addition to all the Clerk’s other duties, Ms. Butler said it is essential that she have an overall rapport with the Board of County Commissioners.
Ms. Butler is proud of her great and dedicated staff. The public comes to the Clerk’s Office for many different reasons, some happy and some heartbreaking. Although her employees cannot get involved, she said they try to help when they can. “My employees are some of the best in the world,” she commented. “They treat the public with courtesy and respect through all emotions . . . we are one big family. I can’t say enough about them.”
Ms. Butler added, “I am a good Clerk because I care about each and every person and I care about the County. I have lived here just about all my life and this County means the world to me.” She also added, “Am I proud of my job – you bet! We have one of the best Clerk’s Offices in the state!”
During her re-election candidacy, Ms. Butler said she is trying to see all her constituents door-to-door but is very busy at work. She noted that the job which the voters elected her to comes first – but she’s sorry if she misses anyone.