Victoria County district clerk wins state award

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

July 20, 2013 at 2:20 a.m.

Cathy Stuart

Cathy Stuart

Some Crossroads area attorneys say they do not need a plaque to know that the woman in charge of an office that processes thousands of litigious documents per year is one of the best in her field.

Still, Cathy Stuart received a plaque emblazoned with the words "District Clerk of the Year" as a testament to her efforts.

The award, which was received at an annual professional development conference in San Antonio last month, recognizes those who have contributed most to the field, and soliciting for votes is prohibited, said Teresa Kiel, the president of the County and District Clerks' Association of Texas.

"It's a great honor because it's your peers that are the ones nominating you," Stuart said of how she learned she was up for the award during a regional meeting in April.

She then submitted her resume for voters to review before casting their ballot in June.

District judges appointed Stuart to the district clerk position in 2002 to fill the remainder of former District Clerk Mary Elizabeth Jimenez's term. Jimenez retired.

Stuart then ran for and won the office as a Democrat in November 2002, according to earlier reports.

Stuart is especially proud of decreasing her office's expenses by an estimated 13 percent during her first year on the job.

In 2006, she also oversaw the installation of an e-filing program for six district courts. The program cuts down on out-of-town attorneys' travel expenses because they can submit petitions and pleadings online.

It is because of Stuart's leadership that Victoria County will smoothly transition to a paperless filing system for civil cases by the Texas Supreme Court's July 1, 2015, deadline, her peers said.

Ashley Pall, of the Kliem & Associates law firm in Victoria, sometimes takes advantage of the e-filing service. She likened Stuart's office to a well-oiled machine.

Stuart's office stands out from ones in other, larger Texas counties because it is so responsive. In those larger Texas counties, Pall remembered begging clerks to get the same amount of work done on time.

"I practice family law exclusively, and many of my cases have to be filed very quickly and often under emergency circumstances. They deal with domestic violence or a divorce where assets could be rapidly disappearing," Pall said. "I just can't imagine the courthouse without her."

Attorneys Tali Villafranca and Lee Keeling shared Pall's testament.

"This is well deserved," Villafranca said. "She is a very personable and bright young lady."

"She is the kind of person that has a problem-solving attitude rather than throwing-up-fences attitude," Keeling added.

Her cheerful outlook and ability to simplify even the most complex situations make her a joy to work with day in and day out, Keeling said.

"I'm surprised there was even a contest," he said.



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