County clerks gather in Tri-Cities

RICHLAND — Budget cuts have affected the turnout for this week's annual county clerks conference in Richland.

Yet, Benton County Clerk Josie Delvin hasn't let it put a damper on her planning and other host duties.

To make sure the trip is valuable for her colleagues in attendance, Delvin has packed their days with educational programs and nights with wine tasting and shopping or free time to explore the Tri-Cities.

"It's fun to have everybody here to show off the county ... but it is a lot of work," said Delvin, who admitted she'd be pulling her hair through the final minutes of preparation. "... I wish there were more people coming in shopping in the area and contributing their dollars to our economy. It's good to bring the tax dollars in."

This is the 104th summer gathering of the Washington State Association of County Clerks. The conference runs today through Friday morning at the Richland Red Lion Hotel, with all sessions except business meetings open to the public.

Of the 39 clerks statewide, Delvin said she expects 25 to attend. The remaining 14 counties won't be represented either because their travel budgets were cut or the clerk has lost employees and can't leave the office.

"It's bad because this is our biggest week of education and so they're missing it. Even though we'll give them the materials, it's not the same," she said.

Clerk's office duties typically involve managing all court documents, issuing writs and bench warrants ordered by the court, processing passport applications and administering the jury system.

The association has its business meeting this afternoon. The conference officially starts with the opening session at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with speeches from Benton County Commissioner Jim Beaver and Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge.

Participants will hear from Richland Police Chief Tony Corsi on "Ethics and the 'Y' Generation," executive director Reiko Callner of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Washington State Patrol's Becky Miner on Criminal History Reporting. Washington state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen is expected to address the group Wednesday.

Evening social events include a bus trip to Prosser's Vintners Village and a tasting at Casa Vino Wine Bar in Richland.

The first clerks conference was held in 1907 in Tacoma. It has made three other stops in the Tri-Cities -- in 1963 and 2006 in Pasco and in 1989 in Kennewick.