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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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James "Jay" Swisher Running for Columbia County Clerk of the Court

Photo of Jay Swisher with an explanation of Clerk of the Court duties

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last week, Jay Swisher set aside the rumors and made it official. He is running for Clerk of the Court in 2020 to replace the retiring P. DeWitt Cason.

The Clerk

In 1838, the Florida Constitution established the elected position of Clerk & Comptroller. The Clerk of the Court is a Constitutional officer. That means the Clerk is independent and nobody can tell him or her what to do. The position is governed by the FL Constitution and Florida statutes.

In Columbia County, besides being elected as the Clerk of the Circuit Court, few people realize that the Clerk is also the County Comptroller, the County Treasurer, Recorder, Internal Auditor, Finance Officer, and Clerk of the County Commission.

P. DeWitt Cason: Clerk of the Court - Columbia County
After 31 years, P. DeWitt Cason is retiring.

The Clerk's duties affect the rights and property of county citizens. The constitution and statutes require that the Clerk is governed by statutory authority. Thus, as auditor and custodian of county funds, the Clerk is subject to state Auditor General rules and regulations, and also subject to annual audits by an independent firm.

The Clerk is constantly subject to changing statutes, administrative rules, and court orders from the Florida Supremes, and changing regulations and reporting requirements.

The Clerk can marry you and provide a courtroom for your divorce trial.

The Clerk maintains a digital law library, records deeds, produces and maintains county minutes, invests County funds, is supposed to prepare reports suggesting improvements to management, process your passport application, audits all county expenditures before payment, and signs the County checks.

Who Is Jay Swisher?

Jay SwisherJay Swisher is a lifelong resident of Columbia County. He attended parochial school through grade 6 and County public schools through graduation; received an AA from Sante Fe Community College in 2002; and BA from UF in 2004.

In 2005, Mr. Swisher became a Columbia County Deputy Sheriff and did that job until December of 2012, after which he moved to FGC where he is now the Director of Public Safety Training.

Mr. Swisher belongs to the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities, the Blue-Gray Army, and professional organizations.

In 2018, Mr. Swisher was appointed by Governor Scott to the troubled Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

That organization meets for its final budget hearing this Tuesday. With the Authority sitting on over $12,200,000 in cash, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Swisher moves to give the taxpayers of the County a little more tax relief in time for Christmas.

Judge Leandra Johnson
J. Leandra Johnson

As a reference for his gubernatorial appointment, Mr. Swisher used one of the historically hardest working and highly regarded judges in the Circuit, Leandra Johnson.

He also used Sheriff Deputy Pete Spurlock, which in some circles is considered controversial.

Family

Mr. Swisher's dad, Jimmy Swisher, was the long time head of the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) up until the time it imploded. His warnings to the Board members fell on deaf ears. Anybody who knew the SVTA back then always said, "Jimmy made sure everybody got a ride."

Mr. Swisher is married to Dianna Roberts Swisher, which means his father-in-law is Dennis Roberts, the long time Public Defender.

Dennille Decker
Dennille Decker

Mr. Swisher's sister-in-law is the highly regarded and one of the best things that ever happened to Columbia County, former Chamber of Commerce Director Dennille Decker.

This morning, Ms. Decker said this about her brother-in-law, "What I would say about Jay is not only is he a genuinely good person, he helps me with my kids when I need him, but when it comes to the community, he is always willing to do things in our community to make it better."

In his press release officially announcing his candidacy, Mr. Swisher wrote, "The Courthouse is the People’s House. As Clerk, I would be committed to assisting with the court system, offering accountability of public dollars, and preserving our public records."

In many parts of rural America getting elected to public office is about family ties, community involvement, and who one's friends are. Mr. Swisher seems to have those bases covered.

As a college graduate, he has shown the desire and ability to learn, something he will need should he be successful in his bid for Clerk of the Court.

Yesterday, Mr. Swisher told this reporter, "I know there is a lot to learn. The Clerk's personnel are top notch and my job as an effective administrator is to surround myself with the highest quality staff available."

He continued, "Clerk Cason, who is retiring after a long career, has left me with that staff."

Epilogue

Jay Swisher has a million dollar smile, a sharp sense of humor and is highly regarded in many circles. Before he officially announced his candidacy last week, your reporter spoke with folks in and out of the court house.

There were no negative comments and everyone spoken to thought "Jay will do a good job."

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