Alexandria, Va., gay attorney Greg Parks is running in that city’s June 11 Democratic primary for Clerk of Court, a position that has been held for the past 40 years by Democratic incumbent Edward Semonian, who’s 86 years old.
According to the website of the Alexandria Circuit Court, for which the Clerk of Court works, the Clerk of Court carries out dozens of administrative functions and duties that include providing clerical assistance to the judges in all civil and criminal cases.
Other duties, the website says, include maintaining and processing land record documents, handling probate and fiduciary matters, issuing marriage licenses and overseeing divorce proceedings, arranging for legal name changes, issuing notarial certificates, administering oaths to elected and appointed officials, and maintaining historical records and statistics for the city.
Unlike most other elective offices, the Clerk of Court has a term in office of eight years.
Parks, who has worked as an attorney for federal government agencies for more than 20 years, is running against Democratic challenger Ben Ortiz, who currently serves as a Deputy Clerk of Court under Semonian.
Ortiz’s website shows he has been endorsed by Semonian, his longtime boss, and by Alexandria’s former mayor, Kerry Donley.
Parks has been endorsed by current Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, former Mayor Bill Euille, and all but one of the members of the Alexandria City Council. Also endorsing him are gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington) and gay Virginia State Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria).
In addition, Parks has been endorsed by Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter, the city’s lead prosecutor; former Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel; the city’s Sheriff, Dana Lawhorne; and two members of the Alexandria School Board, Meagan Alderton and Jacinta Greene.
Parks told the Washington Blade in a phone interview last week that in addition to believing his multiple endorsements are based on the belief that he’s the most qualified candidate, he said all those who have endorsed him know him through his many civic involvements in Alexandria. Among them, he said, were his service on various local boards and commissions, including the city’s Human Rights Commission, the Economic Opportunities Commission, and the City Council’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee. He is a member of the Arlington/Alexandria Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA).
He said his husband, David Lord, also an attorney, currently works as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Alexandria.
Parks’ experience as a government attorney includes stints working on maritime safety and environmental protection at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Judge Advocate General’s Office; and service at the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. General Services Administration, where he served as chief counsel for that agency’s Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.
One of his priorities if elected, Parks said, is to modernize the Alexandria courts’ computer and case filing system to a level that many other cities and counties, including D.C., have already done – to have electronic in addition to paper docketing and files that are accessible to the public online.
“That’s the sort of thing that’s not sexy, but what we need to improve in Alexandria is we don’t have modern technology in all of the courtrooms,” he said. “We don’t have electronic online docketing – things like that. If you want to see what’s coming up in the civil or criminal dockets at the court in Arlington, you go online,” he said. “You can see it in a second. In Alexandria you’ve got to go physically to the courthouse.”
As Clerk of Court, Parks said he would make absolutely certain that all members of the public, especially LGBT people who may be applying for a same-sex marriage license or a transgender person who may apply for a name change, are treated with “full dignity and respect.”
Ortiz couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. His campaign website says that with more than 15 years of experience working at the Alexandria Circuit Court, he is highly knowledgeable in the workings of the court.
“His focus will not only be on case processing and maintaining records, but more importantly on the services provided to the people,” his website says. “Throughout his years of service, Ben has demonstrated that helping people is his main goal and he will not waiver from achieving his goals.”
The Alexandria Republican Party was expected to nominate a candidate for the Clerk of Court position in June through a party caucus rather than a primary.