Clerk of District Court for Albany County Janice Sexton will resign from her position July 31.
She’s held the position for 16 years and was re-elected to a fifth term in November.
Including the county commissioners, Sexton is one of 10 countywide elected officials.
Her office handles court records for Albany County’s district court, while providing other services, including handling passport applications for the U.S. Secretary of State.
“I understand I was just elected to my fifth term, but now I realize this is not something I will be able to fulfill with the enthusiasm and dedication the people of Albany County deserve,” Sexton wrote in her resignation letter. “Having a job because of the voting public is the most humbling thing I have ever experienced; those who voted for me are entitled to have a clerk of court that has their interest at heart and is working hard for them.”
One of Sexton’s more personal touches she’s put on the Albany County Courthouse during her tenure has been the framed jigsaw puzzles that she’s completed and now adorn the walls of her office and courthouse hallways.
She said she doesn’t plan to take those with her, and she’ll “still come back to rearrange them as the seasons change.”
“I don’t have any room in my house for them,” she said. “My house is already wall-to-wall puzzles.”
Since Sexton is a Republican, Wyoming statute requires that the Albany County Republican Party submit to the county commissioners the names of three “persons qualified to hold the office.”
The Albany County Commission will then be required to fill the vacancy by appointing one the three people nominated by the party.
In her resignation letter, Sexton told the commissioners that she will inform the Republican Party that “Stacy Lam should be the number one person on their list they submit to you.”
She’s also urging the commissioners to appoint Lam, who’s been the office’s chief deputy for more than two decades.
Lam is actually longer tenured in the office than Sexton. Lam hired Sexton when the incumbent clerk joined the office 24 years ago.
Lam’s now worked at the office for 27 years, but when former district court clerk Jerry Overman retired at the end of his term in 2002, it was right at the time when Lam was starting a family.
So it was Sexton instead who was asked to run to replace Overman.
While Sexton’s term doesn’t expire until 2022, her appointed successor will be required by state statute to run for re-election in 2020.
When Sexton ran for re-election last year, she expected to stay on longer than she has.
Frustrations with rapidly changing technology her office is required to use now makes her feel that she “can no longer do what I was elected to do.”
Sexton said a mandated standardization of Wyoming’s district courts has taken away some of the autonomy of Sexton’s office.
That standardization, along with an increasing reliance on technology, is taking away a lot of the customer service Sexton’s prided herself on.
“There is a lot to be said about ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’,” Sexton wrote in her resignation letter. “There have been changes on so many levels from our association, the county, the 2nd Judicial District as well as at the Supreme Court and I don’t see the public being at the top of any of these lists. … I see changes absolutely everywhere in this world at all levels, and change is not always bad, it’s just not easy for me. I’m of the feeling, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’ but ‘fixes’ are happening over and over and over again.”
At the beginning of 2019, Sexton’s office moved to a new electronic system for handling jury duty. Her staff used to call all potential jurors on the eve of trials, but that’s not the case anymore.
The office is on a separate electronic case management system used statewide, and her office is planned to pilot a new case management system next year.
“There’s too much control by the supreme court,” she told the Laramie Boomerang. “A lot of customer service is going to be lost.”
District courts are also expected to offer an e-filing system in coming years, which would negate the needs for attorneys or their staff from coming to the office.
“The more automated you get, the less human touch you get,” she said. “We enjoy getting the attorneys and the runners coming up from different places. I don’t think there’s a person who comes through the door that my staff doesn’t know.”
She acknowledges that that a lot of the changes have merit. When e-filing becomes the norm, it will obviously be much easier for attorneys in the state.
“That’s why the truest thing I said in my resignation letter is ‘you can’t teach old dogs new tricks’,” Sexton said. “And that’s why it’ll be good for Stacy to take over. With Stacy, it just clicks for her.”