Supervisors taking resumes for Circuit Clerk post – set date for interviews

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted to officially declare the office of Circuit Clerk vacant at their first meeting of the new year Monday at the Sardis Courthouse. A deadline of Friday at noon was set for resumes of candidates for the position to be submitted to the Chancery Clerk’s office.

Supervisors took up the matter of the vacancy as its first order of business. Board attorney Gaines Baker started the discussion by asking Sheriff Shane Phelps if his spouse had taken an oath of office over the weekend, and asking Chancery Clerk Katie Ragon in Melissa MeekPhelps had submitted paperwork saying she had received an oath of office as required by law to assume an elected position.

“She has not and she will not,” Sheriff Phelps said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ragon also confirmed that no paperwork had been submitted in her office.

Melissa Meek-Phelps was elected to a fourth term as Circuit Clerk in the November general election, but abruptly declined another four years in office when she announced three weeks ago that she would not be taking an oath of office on Dec. 28 when a county-wide swearing was scheduled.

Her announcement was a surprise to the supervisors, but they did little to begin the process of finding a replacement because they were not convinced she wouldn’t wait until the day before her term expired on Jan. 1 at midnight and then take an oath from a local judge.

Meek-Phelps added more intrigue to political speculation across the county last week, when she said, in response to a question from The Panolian, that she might “change her mind” about the resignation.

With the vacancy finally confirmed at Monday’s meeting, Baker informed the board that state law gives them 10 days to name someone to serve as interim Circuit Clerk until a special election could be held.

As of Monday morning, three resumes had been dropped off at the courthouse. Supervisors set a deadline of noon Friday for resumes to be received in the Chancery Clerk’s office, and agreed to begin interviewing prospective candidates next Monday, Jan. 8, after their regularly scheduled meeting at the Batesville courthouse.

Baker reminded the supervisors their choice to fill the vacant office must be a resident of Panola County and a registered voter. An earlier discussion about whether appointing someone to the office who intended to run in the special election would be an unfair advantage was not considered this week, and that caveat appears to be off the table.

Supervisors are expected to vote on the matter and install their choice by the close of business on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

The person appointed will serve until a new clerk is elected. Because 2024 is a Presidential election year, the “special election” for Circuit Clerk will coincide with the scheduled cycle and that race will be part of the party primary and general balloting.

Qualifying for offices on the 2024 general election ballot began Tuesday of this week with the new year.