Vivian Jenkins and Shirley Hill agree on this much: The next clerk of the Circuit Court in Prince George's County should be measured by her success in bringing back money from Annapolis.
But the two Democrats, who will face each other in the Sept. 11 primary, naturally disagree on who is better suited to the task.
Jenkins, of Lanham, has worked for 11 years as a legislative aide and administrative assistant in the General Assembly, and she points to her "many contacts" in the State House as an advantage.
Hill, of Upper Marlboro, was a 17-year employee of the Circuit Court clerk's office -- 11 of them as chief deputy -- before retiring in 1985. She said that experience would enable her to better articulate the office's needs.
They are the only candidates for the $60,000-a-year job. Rose Cobb, a County Council aide, has withdrawn from the race, and the current clerk, Democrat Norman Pritchett, is not seeking a fifth four-year term. And no Republican has emerged to challenge Hill or Jenkins in November.
Jenkins, like her opponent, said one of her highest priorities would be securing pay raises for many of the office's 143 employees.
"I have very good working relationships with a lot of members of the General Assembly," she said, "and I could be an effective lobbyist" for the office's budget, set at $4 million this fiscal year.
She also vowed to get out of the courthouse more often than past clerks.
"We need to reach out to people, make them feel comfortable using the court system," she said. "I plan to go out and speak to community groups, explaining how the court system works. The court is becoming more and more a part of people's lives, and it shouldn't be looked at negatively."
Jenkins, 49, was a House of Delegates aide from 1975 to 1979, then left to run a real estate office. She returned to Annapolis in 1983 and works as an administrative assistant to state Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Prince George's).
Hill, 55, was a legal secretary before joining the clerk's office in 1968. She rose to chief deputy in 1974. A year after retiring, she challenged Pritchett for the clerk's post and lost by 1,766 votes.
Beyond seeking additional funds for pay raises, Hill said, she would fight for money to improve the office's record-keeping.
"Some of our historical records are in terrible shape," she said. "A lot of our old land records really need to be microfilmed, and the current clerk has said he's had a problem getting funds."
Hill also said she would create a central personnel department within the clerk's office. The office's various units now do their own hiring, she said. She called the practice confusing. "It certainly would make things smoother," she said. "Employees would know where to go for what they need, whether it's questions about pay or benefits or other things."
Jenkins and Hill both said they would continue a project to create a computerized record of courthouse case files.
"The office needs someone to get in there and push for these things, and I'm the person to do it," Hill said.
Jenkins, of course, disagrees. "I feel I'm the person who can help the overall situation there," she said.