XENIA — She started researching “clerk of courts” at the library in December.
She just made the filing deadline for the March primary. She won.
And in the November 1996 general election, Terri Mazur was elected Greene County Clerk of Courts.
“I was approached to run because there was a vacancy,” Mazur said, sitting in her office, amidst boxes and stacks of papers. “The clerk at that time in ‘95 resigned from office. So it’s kind of a similar scenario (to now), but rather than the three years left on the term, there was just a year left.”
Long days on the road campaigning for that election led to what became a 21-year clerk career for Mazur.
“I went everywhere in this county. There wasn’t a chicken dinner or a fish fry that I wasn’t there,” she recalled. “And sure enough, after I actually won the primary election and the general election, I had more people tell me they voted for me because I took the time to introduce myself.”
At the completion of the first year of her sixth term, Greene County knows Terri Mazur. Now officially retired, she had planned to announce her decision before the last election. But with several employees retiring from her office and the state about to launch its updated auto title system, she decided she needed to stay.
“I waited until the next cycle was coming up for the next countywide general election … That’s why I’m leaving when I’m leaving — to allow the voters of Greene County to replace me,” Mazur said. “We’ve accomplished quite a bit in this last year and so I feel like I’m leaving it in good shape.”
What Mazur’s leaving behind, is, quite frankly, a lot.
When describing her roles, sometimes she talks in numbers. That’s four courts she’s clerk of — Common Pleas general division, domestic relations, appeals and claims. Add the auto title division. That makes 396 statutory duties. A $1 million budget. And about 6,000 new court actions filed every year.
“Being clerk of courts is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure,” she said, laughing.
She’s leaving behind the numbers and the records — but also a legacy that began with a few campaign promises.
“I talked about my ideas — generating new revenue for the office and updating the computer system. I said, ‘I’m not going to try to invent some software — I’ve been traveling all over the state of Ohio looking at all the clerks’ offices and I’m stealing the best ideas. ‘Cause I don’t have time to reinvent the wheel here — I want to know what works and bring that into the office’,” Mazur said.
So she did.
Her office implemented a case management system to the courts in 1999 and then provided online access to court records in 2000.
She initiated another breakthrough on her first day of work.
“My very first day in office I walked back to the wall where the green cards are stacked. I just grabbed one — this is January 6, 1997 — that card was April of 1996.”
Mazur said the backlog of un-filed green cards — which are supposed to be filed to show that a person has been served — meant that the process would stop and the case couldn’t move forward.
“They didn’t know that there had even been service done on that case. That case could’ve been closed by that time,” she said. “So that was the first thing we did — the staff came in here on weekends and we got caught up.”
That same year, Mazur figured out how to garnish outstanding fees from inmates in prison, which led to her team’s pioneering of the Inmate Collection Program in Ohio.
“It’s a great way to reimburse the county for some of the costs of the justice system. I feel like if somebody wants to file for a divorce because they’re in a bad situation, a bad marriage, they have to scrape together the money to put on deposit to file divorce. My feeling was that if you’re convicted of a crime, you should also be responsible for the obligation,” she said.
At last count, the office had collected more than $500,000.
Mazur has specific memories that she connects with her time as clerk, too. Like when Y2K was approaching, and her office had to back up all of their computer files. Or the “Valentine’s Day murder,” the first capital murder case she witnessed soon after she took office. Or the time she announced a “not guilty” verdict and the defendant’s mother fell to her knees.
“She dropped to her knees and let out this sound and I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, did I say it wrong?” Mazur recalled. “But she was literally so grateful and thanking God — and that was a profound moment for me. And to see him and the mother thanking the jurors as they were escorted out of the courtroom. I’ll never forget that.”
She also remembers the countless times she and her staff helped people through hard times, like when they returned leftover money to individuals after a foreclosure. She recalled one Fairborn couple who hung up on her the first time she called, thinking it was a scam.
“She was in a wheelchair — the son drove them up and they got their check and they were so happy. Here they lost their home and that’s heartbreaking in itself but to give them back the equity that they had put into that house was great.”
It’s this kind of compassion that makes Mazur proud of her staff.
“I believe my memory of this office is that the employees and I have always approached all our customers with a great amount of empathy and understanding, no judgment at all,” she said.
The now-retired clerk has a list of plans for her future that includes spending time with her family, traveling, learning Spanish, and maybe even training assistance dogs. And — she’s going to start living her life as Terri Rose — her married name as the wife of Federal Court Judge Thomas Rose.
When asked if she had advice for the next clerk, she said she remembered once answering a question for her daughter’s class project about women in leadership roles.
“What I started out with is this — I believe effective leadership begins with honesty and integrity. I think if you start from there — you can’t go wrong.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.