Gayle certain of abilities to lead Suffolk Clerk’s position

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 27, 2003

Editor’s note: Today, the Suffolk News-Herald begins a series of interviews with the seven candidates for the Suffolk Clerk of the Court. We begin with Barbara X. Gayle; the others will appear in the paper through this Friday.

By Stephen H. Cowles

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The first thing you notice about Barbara X. Gayle is the absolute confidence that radiates from her as she walks and talks about her family, her work and, case in point, her goal to become the next Suffolk Clerk of the Court.

&uot;I’m confident in my abilities,&uot; Gayle said in a recent interview about her nearly nine-month campaign, which began as a labor of love – of sorts – on Valentine’s Day.

&uot;I’m an independent person,&uot; she continued, &uot;I’m good at what I do. I enjoy what I do.&uot;

That quality of self-reliance is synonymous with freedom from being tied to any political party in her campaign.

&uot;I believe this office is not a political one, but administrative and managerial only,&uot; she said, pointing out that the clerk cannot make promises of favors in exchange for votes.

So much of the position is dictated by the Virginia Supreme Court, which has established the guidelines. The state Compensation Board decides fiscal matters. The clerk is responsible for personnel issues, but again, policies and procedures are already outlined.

Anyway, she said, &uot;cleaning house would be idiotic; it would not be cost-effective,&uot; further, &uot;it would generate ill will, and losing quality people and time.&uot;

If anything, the Sadler Heights resident would – if elected – concentrate on cross-training the available staff to make them even more efficient and better able to serve the public. &uot;This would also be done to eliminate backlog during budgetary crises,&uot; she later added.

The ability to do this stems chiefly from Gayle’s 10 years in the legal field. She works as chief court administrator for the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Juvenile and Domestic division, which she set up.

In the past she has been involved in other court-related matters where cases are involved either with criminal matters or in cases of child support and the Juvenile Division of Motor Vehicles.

Gayle also worked three months for the late Henry Murden and, she said, that contrary to the rumors and gossip which have arisen in this campaign, she did not leave the office one afternoon and then fail to ever return.

Gayle said she left on amicable terms with Murden; that the reason for her departure was that she felt then she was not challenged enough. By that she meant that at time, &uot;the workload I had in my division (Criminal), there wasn’t a lot. When I got there, there was a backlog of cases and boxes on the floor. Once that was put in order, I found myself at a standstill, and I have to have a challenge. I have to be productive.

&uot;Then I asked Mr. Murden about cross-training, and he was not inclined to do so because he wanted people to stay in their own areas, and that’s when we talked about my departure. He wasn’t angry with me. I was instrumental in getting a replacement for my position, and she also came from the Portsmouth Juvenile Court.

&uot;Every election has the rumors and gossip,&uot; she said. &uot;Why can’t people get through an election without it?&uot;

Such tactics Gayle has had to explain to her 13-year-old son, John, who she said is &uot;very aware of the campaign…I explain to him that desperate people do desperate things.&uot;

The case of her disappearing campaigns is another example of that desperation. &uot;The signs grew feet and walked away,&uot; she said with exasperated humor. Besides she’s got a television ad running on five different cable stations.

Referring back to why she’s the best person for the job, &uot;an unqualified person (seeking the Clerk’s office) with no legal background must rely on someone else to show him or her what must be done, and that doesn’t serve the public well,&uot; she said.

Gayle’s familiarity with law (she has an associate’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in community corrections) begs the question of whether she had ever considered becoming an attorney. Indeed she had, but replied she would not be comfortable in defending someone she was certain was guilty, or prosecuting a person she believed innocent. &uot;I’m soft-hearted when it comes to people.&uot;

Overall, the campaign has been &uot;very, very interesting. I’ve learned much about the other candidates, such as how they treat each other.

&uot;Being a woman helps me a great deal. I’m strong against six men. But I want to be elected based on my character and experience and abilities.&uot;

Speaking of character and strength, Gayle credits her parents as the strongest influences while growing up. Her mother, Margaret, has been her spiritual guide. &uot;My dad (Nick Xenakis) taught me my independence.&uot; From him she also learned to listen before reacting.

Though Gayle has only been in Suffolk with her husband, K. Brian Gayle, since February 1997, she does not believe that lifelong residency is a requirement for Clerk of Court.

She noted that &uot;a great deal of people are backing me,&uot; and since announcing her candidacy on Feb. 14, &uot;not one door has been slammed on me…I’ve met gracious people. There’s been no ugliness, and I can blow off any unpleasantness.&uot;

&uot;I want to thank the public for their support, and my family and friends for their support.

&uot;I’m looking forward to Election Night!&uot;