Tyler won’t seek re-election as Berrien County Clerk

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler announced Thursday that she will not seek re-election to the county clerk position this year. Tyler, a Niles resident, made her announcement at Thursday’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“With a lot of great thought and prayer, I will not be seeking re-election for county clerk,” Tyler told commissioners. ”It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Berrien County as your County Clerk these last twelve years.”

“I would like to leave by thanking all those who have helped, and supported, me over the years,” she said. ““I want to thank you and my staff to make the department a success. It takes a team working together.”

“I especially want to recognize the staff at the Berrien County Clerk’s Office who are dedicated individuals carrying out their responsibilities with excellence and compassion,” she added. “I don’t think anyone truly understands what takes place in the Clerk’s Office on a daily basis.”

She noted that her  office is one of the most diversified in county government, governed by approximately 596 statutes, which fall into six major divisions.

The county clerk serves as the Clerk of the Board of Commissioners, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Registrar of Vital Statistics, Clerk of the Jury Board, Clerk of the Plat Board and the Chief Election Official for the County.  The county clerk presides over every election held in the County from a local bond issue to electing the President of the United States.

Tyler didn’t talk much about her own future plans.

“I plan to relax, travel a little, and enjoy my grandchildren, but don’t be surprised if you see my name on the ballot again,” she said.

She did say that she plans to endorse someone for county clerk in the near future.

“The clerk’s office has six major divisions, this is not a position for a novice to fill,” she said. “I will be endorsing a person in the near future after that person announces. I want to see a county clerk who can begin on day one.”

She noted that one project she started in 2013 in nearing completion, that of digitizing court records so that they can be viewed online. It is expected to be fully implemented later this spring. She also talked about another newer project she’s worked on, that of early voting.

Tyler said early voting has been a great success since it began last Saturday. A statewide ballot proposal approved in 2022 instituted early voting and other measures and next week’s Feb. 27 presidential primary election is the first time it will be implemented.

She reported that the county has two early voting sites: the south county courthouse in the south county and Lake Michigan College in the north county. Two townships, Bainbridge and Benton, are doing their own early voting.

As of late Wednesday, she said a total of 315 people have taken advantage of early voting which runs through Sunday. While that number may seem low, she expects it to grow in coming elections with more races and proposals on the ballot. She noted that early voting is another voting option besides absentee voting and election day voting.

County Board Vice-Chairman Teri Freehling thanked Tyler for her service.
“I thank you for your leadership and the work you have done,” she said. “Whoever comes into that role has big shoes to fill.”

Tyler is currently nearing the end of her third four-year term as county clerk, having first been elected in 2012. Previously she served two two-year terms as a state representative from 2009-2012 and spent 30 years as an economic developer in Berrien County.

She served as the executive director of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance and the Berrien County Manufacturers Council before running for state representative. She was the Economic Developer of the Year for the state of Michigan in 2004.

Her public service career also included serving as a Lincoln Charter Township Trustee, on the Lincoln Township Planning Commission and as the Interim City Manager for the city of Niles in the 1990s.

In other news at Thursday’s county board meeting, County Commissioner Jim Curran reported on presentations by Chief Trial Judge Mabel Mayfield and Trial Court Administrator Carrie Smietanka-Haney at the administration committee earlier Thursday.

Curran said Smietanka-Haney reported on staff vacancies which have been high since the pandemic. She told the committee that the number of vacancies have gone down, going from a 12 percent vacancy rate to just a three percent vacancy rate.

Judge Mayfield talked about the implementation of the new extreme risk protection “red flag” law that went into effect Feb. 15.  The judge said that it will be up to the presiding judge to decide about the confiscation of weapons in individual cases. An arrest made in Genesee County since last week will likely become a test case on the constitutionality of the law.

Curran said his committee also heard from 9-1-1 Director Caitlin Sampsell about new legislation being proposed in Lansing. It will take speed limit changes out of the hands of the Michigan State Police and into the hands of local governments. That would likely mean more work for the Berrien County Road Department in changing signage.