Republican Terry Halpin, a judicial assistant, will become Yellowstone County’s new clerk of court, soundly beating incumbent Republican Kristie Boelter, whose first term was marked by controversies, and challenger Richard Nixon, a Billings businessman.
No Democrat filed for the job.
Unofficial final results showed Halpin with 11,542 votes or 51 percent, while Boelter had 7,653 votes or 33 percent, and Nixon had 3,378 votes or 14 percent.
As initial results were reported, Halpin said she was "cautiously optimistic" about her wide lead over Boelter but that it was still early. "I'm excited. It's such a good turnout," she said.
Boelter said she was "still hopeful" about her chances, saying smaller cities were still reporting.
Halpin maintained a nearly 20 percent lead over Boelter for most of the night.
Halpin, who started in 1996 as a deputy clerk and worked in the office for three years before going to work for District Judge Russell Fagg, said she sought the job because she saw numerous problems and mistakes being made.
Calling herself a problem solver, Halpin said she would improve training for deputy clerks, improve customer service and make sure the office worked cohesively with the district’s six judges.
The clerk’s job pays a base salary of $66,363. Boelter’s salary is $79,015 with longevity included.
The office is responsible for court filings in District Court and issues marriage licenses. The county’s office is the busiest in the state, with about 10,000 new cases filed a year and six judges, and has about 21 deputy clerk positions plus he clerk of court.
Halpin said she has a good working relationship with the judges and that she would meet with them informally, call them if necessary and is willing to learn and to ask for help. The job of the clerk’s office, she said, is to serve the legal needs of the community.
Nixon, a Billings businessman and former levy officer, said he has experience working with the office and would provide leadership.
During her first four years in office, Boelter said she made the office friendlier and streamlined processes. Boelter sought a second, four-year term saying she has learned the basics and wanted to make additional improvements to make the office more efficient.
Boelter, a former deputy clerk who started in 2009, beat former Clerk of Court Carol Muessig, a Democrat, in 2012.
During Boelter’s first term, she also clashed with judges, who sent her letters of concern over the quality and quantity of the work in her office.
In the run up to the primary election, Boelter posted, then deleted, in April a Facebook comment in which she referred to half of the judges as being “corrupt.”
Boelter also accepted responsibility in April for a search warrant in a homicide investigation that was left unsealed for public review because of a clerical mistake.
Boelter had conflicts with the county commissioners and the county attorney over issuing same-sex marriage licenses. She said she objected to making accommodations for a deputy clerk who objected on religious grounds to issuing same-sex marriage license, despite being advised to do so.
The commissioners and county attorney formally warned Boelter to follow the law and to accommodate the employee or face personal legal liability if the county were sued.
And in 2014, the county settled for $25,000 a complaint filed by a former deputy clerk who alleged Boelter retaliated against her for supporting her opponent in 2012. The county admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to training for Boelter and supervisors on discrimination with an emphasis on political belief and retaliation.