Edwards pursuing a new opportunity

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Educator Johnnie Edwards has spent more than two decades motivating youngsters to strive for lofty goals.

Now, the assistant principal of Franklin’s S.P. Morton Elementary School is taking his own advice to heart.

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&uot;I’ve worked with young people all my life, training them to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way,&uot; said Edwards, 49. &uot;I decided it was time to practice what I preach.&uot;

So this past spring, Edwards tossed his hat in the ring to become the next clerk of Suffolk Circuit Court.

He is one of seven candidates vying for the seat, vacant since the recent death of former clerk Henry C. Murden. A few months before his death, Murden, clerk for more than five decades, announced plans to retire on Dec. 31.

&uot;I feel I have the background, …the foundation to be successful in this position,&uot; said Edwards. &uot;My years of administrative work, my experience working with large volumes of records and my understanding of the Suffolk community make me the right person for the clerk’s seat.&uot;

A Suffolk native, Edwards still lives in the Rosemont community where he was raised. He is divorced and has three adult children: Johnnie III, Yvette and Janice.

Before going to work in Franklin, Edwards spent 23 years working for Suffolk Public Schools. After five years teaching, he spent most of the next 18 years as an assistant principal or principal at four schools: Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Forest Glen and John Yeates middle schools and Turlington Woods School.

Part of that time was spent in the division’s central office, where Edwards was coordinator of pupil personnel/director of testing.

One of the most intimidating tasks he handled there was determining what should be done with 128,000 student records dating as far back as the 1928.

Although Edwards is no longer with the system, work is under way on his plan to record the records on microfilm, then destroy the originals.

&uot;This is similar to other records in the city,&uot; he said. &uot;There has to be a different way to manage the records, one that will them more easily assessable to the public.&uot;

Edwards said he envisions more computer technology being used in the clerk’s office.

Also, some tasks handled by the clerk’s office may overlap with those handled by city departments, he said. Looking for ways to consolidate some of the duplicated activities may be a way to increase efficiency and save money for all parties involved, he added.

Edwards, who has a graduate degree in education administration from Old Dominion University, has never before run for public office.

Until now, his only political experience has been helping with City Councilman Charles F. Brown’s election campaigns.

&uot;It’s totally different from being behind the scenes, and following someone else’s directions and philosophy,&uot; Edwards said. &uot;This time, I’m having to make major decisions. There is a vast difference.&uot;

Until recently, he has run a low-key campaign. As the race goes into the final week, he is beginning to get more aggressive.

A growing number of his signature green-and-white campaign signs are beginning to dot the city landscape. He and his team of campaign workers plan to be more visible, stopping at civic league meetings, churches and going door-to-door in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Despite a strong pool of opposing candidates, Edwards is confident in his ability to lead the Suffolk Circuit Court Clerk’s Office into the future.

&uot;I believe I have the skills to make it (the clerk’s office) a better operation.&uot;