Fourth and filing

Michelle Park

New Portage County clerk of courts adjusts to her position

Linda Fankhauser is 57 years old, and she’s held four jobs her entire life.

She began as a nurse at Robinson Memorial Hospital, worked as an assignment commissioner for a retired Portage County Municipal Court judge and maintained property records as Portage County recorder.

Just last month, she began her fourth job as the new clerk of courts for Portage County.

“I’ve always wanted to be clerk of courts,” she said. “My husband was a police officer, so I’ve heard about the trials he had to go to and the hearings he had to go to. I just really like it.”

Within her new job, Fankhauser maintains all the filings for the Portage County Courthouse. Her office handles the paperwork for “any case” from the Municipal Court, the Court of Common Pleas, the Appeals Court, the Domestic Relations Court and the auto title department.

“I don’t think I can tell you how many cases we have upstairs here,” she said.

She did, however, find numbers for 2004 — she said there were 53,119 total filings in Ravenna and 25,724 in Kent.

Fankhauser’s new position pays a little more than $70,000 per year, she said. She spent about $20,000 on advertisements and postage during her campaign, which she labeled “a very friendly race.”

The office is not slow, Fankhauser said. She works 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and supervises 51 full-time employees and one part-time employee.

“We are a busy place here,” she said. “There’s something going on here all the time. It’s wonderful for me because the time goes so quickly.”

Fankhauser’s administrative assistant, Lori Evans, started a week after Fankhauser and said she and Fankhauser have several goals for the office. They would like to ensure a good workplace environment for every employee.

“I’ve only worked with her for three weeks, but she’s very easy to get along with,” Evans said. “She listens when you need to talk to her. She really cares.”

Fankhauser said she would like to get to know her staff members.

“I want to get out into each office and learn what they do,” she said, “So if I have people on vacation or out sick, I can help. I’m definitely a hands-on person. I just think it’s my job.”

A responsibility of the clerk of courts is to guide guests, Fankhauser added.

“My goal is to make this office very user-friendly to the public,” she said. “There are people who come here every day who have probably not been here before.”

Fankhauser also wants to keep records organized.

“We need to keep the files in order for the judge,” she said, adding that she is currently learning to do this using a new computer system, CourtView.

Fankhauser will serve a four-year term as clerk of courts, she said. She already intends to run for re-election in 2008.

Being elected to the position for the first term was exciting, Fankhauser said.

“I’m very pleased to be here,” she said. “It’s an honor to serve the people of Portage County.”

Fankhauser has lived in or around the county her entire life. She and her husband of 38 years, Bob, currently live in Kent. The two met in high school; he was a senior, and she was a freshman.

Also a public servant, Bob serves as chief of the Portage County Adult Probation Department and works across the street from Fankhauser. The two drive to work together more often than not, Fankhauser said. They also have lunch together.

Beginning work in another public office has been a little easier with Bob at her side, Fankhauser said.

Bob said he has “every confidence” his wife will do well in her new position.

“She’s a good lady,” he said. “She has a good heart and a good soul. But, I’m a little biased,” he said, laughing.

Fankhauser said her staff members help her just as her husband does. They have been patient with her as she adjusts to her new position.

“I’m sure they’re sick of my questions,” she said, laughing, “but I keep asking. Nothing’s been really, really hard. To me, it’s been all interesting, and I’m kind of soaking it up like a sponge.”

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Park at [email protected].