LIBERTY COUNTY CLERK OF COURTS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF STATE COUNTY OFFICERS' FOR 1999
Liberty County Clerk of Superior Court Barry Wilkes was elected recently president of the County Officers' Association of Georgia (COAG), the state organization for elected, constitutional county officers.
"Everyone tells me it's quite an honor since only one county officer out of 636 is elected president of COAG each year, but I suppose I'm too practical to see my being elected as any more than an unique opportunity for me to look after the business of the clerk's office, the interests of those who elect me, the people of Liberty County. That's the only reason I am involved in COAG or any other professional organization," Wilkes said. Because the association's membership consists of the superior court clerks, sheriffs, probate judges, and tax commissioner of the 159 counties of the state, a system or rotation for electing officers was established to enable each member group to elect one of their members president every four years. Consequently, Wilkes is the tenth clerk of superior court elected president of the association since its formation.
"What made the occasion really special for me is that Sheriff Don Martin and Probate Judge Nancy Aspinwall were present during the inaugural ceremony, joining my friends, family, and me as I accepted the gavel from outgoing president Jerry Massey (sheriff of Clarke County) and gave the inaugural speech to the association," Wilkes stated. "Their presence was confirmation of what I emphasized during my comments, that, whatever our differences might be, the constitutional officers and other elected officials of Liberty County always manage to put aside our differences to work for the common good of our constituents, our county. Unlike other counties where they (elected officials) don't even speak to each other and are caught up in petty bickering and one-upmanship, we are more concerned with doing our jobs than contention."
Other COAG officers installed included Andy Pipkin (Jones County tax commissioner), president-elect; Henry Baker (Newton County probate judge), first vice-president; Bill Massee (Baldwin County sheriff), second vice-president; and Charlotte Beall (Johnson County probate judge), secretary-treasurer. Liberty County State Court Judge Leon M. Braun, Jr., administered the oaths of office to the newly elected officers of the association. "Each year, the incoming president invites someone special to him or her for that purpose. Judge Braun and I have been friends since the early 70's and have worked closely together on issues affecting the youth of our county long before he became judge of the State Court. So, having him swear me in, just added to the solemnity of the event."
Wilkes and other officers were inaugurated in November during the association's winter conference in Savannah. During conferences, county officers attend training and meetings of their respective organizations related to their jobs. According to Wilkes, the "primary purpose of COAG is to improve the quality of government available to citizens of Georgia, particularly at the county level. We are also dedicated to promoting and encouraging the efficient performance of official duties conferred upon and required and expected of our members by the citizenry of their respective counties, with special emphasis on ethical conduct in government."
Hon. Leon M. Braun, Jr., Judge of the State Court of Liberty County (right), congratulates Barry Wilkes, newly elected COAG president, after inauguration ceremony during COAG Winter conference.
Wilkes was appointed chief deputy clerk of the Superior Court of Liberty County in 1983 and was subsequently elected clerk in 1984. In addition, he serves as clerk and court administrator of the county's State Court, Juvenile Court, and Magistrate Court. He was administrator of the six-county Atlantic Judicial Circuit of Georgia public defender program before being elected clerk of superior court. A graduate of Georgia Southern University, his post-graduate studies were in education.
He served as president of the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia for five years (1990-1995) and was inaugural executive director of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority, the state agency responsible for creating and operating statewide automated Uniform Commercial Code (financing statement) and real estate information systems. In 1993, he was awarded the prestigious Superior Court Clerk of the Year Award for the State of Georgia. Presented by the Superior Court Clerks' Association of Georgia, the award may be awarded to a clerk of superior court only once in his or her lifetime. Additionally, he was Clerk of the Year for the First Judicial District of Georgia in 1991 and 1994.
Wilkes served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Court Management (NACM) from 1995-1997. He is a member of the joint American Judicature Society/Justice Management Institute pro se litigation task force, serves on various local and state boards and commissions and is very active in community-based civic and charitable organizations. He is currently serving his second term as president of the Liberty County/Armed Services YMCA Board of Directors and is a charter member of the organization.
"If I can help Liberty County in any manner, then it is worth the effort. I've always believed, if you live in a community, you should contribute whatever talents or resources you have, giving back all you can. Unfortunately, it's not my nature to put my name on the membership rolls of an organization just to say I belong. Although it would be better for my family and me otherwise, I can't say 'no' when I see there's so much to be done. Dr. (Whitman) Fraser, when we were working on charitable projects together, used to caution me that I needed to slow down and smell the roses. I could not help wondering if he would have accomplished all he did during his lifetime, all the good he did for this community, if he had heeded his own advice."