Fayette County prothonotary post has 4 Democratic seekers

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Four candidates are vying for their party's nomination to become Fayette County's next prothonotary.

The four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are Nina Capuzzi Frankhouser, Pamela Hudson, Paul Shipley and Robert “Ted” Pritchard. There are no candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

The position is open for a two-year term because the former incumbent, Lance Winterhalter, quit in the middle of his four-year term.

Frankhouser, 50, of South Union said her work experience has prepared her to handle the prothonotary's duties. She became familiar with county records while performing title searches for two years as an independent contractor in the gas industry, she said. She works in Fayette's recorder of deed's office, where her responsibilities include record keeping and account billing.

If elected, she said she would “retain the integrity” of the office but explore ways to improve technology without relying on tax dollars to make any changes.

“I also have a desire to improve the process for filing petitions for sensitive matters, such as protection from abuse (orders), so as to provide a more private forum when such a situation arises at the office,” Frankhouser said.

Another goal is to develop a preservation plan for the county's civil documents, she said.

“I feel a sense of obligation to preserve the history of the Fayette County civil courts documents,” Frankhouser said. “They are our history, our past, and they deserve to be obtainable for future generations.”

Shipley, 29, of North Union said his experience in county government has helped prepare him for the prothonotary's position. Those jobs included working for the sheriff, veterans affairs department and public defender's office.

If elected, one of his goals is to make the office's records more readily accessible to the public.

“Modernization is the main focus in my vision of the prothonotary's office,” Shipley said. “Working with the county commissioners to make the records available online so that the office can have a new revenue source and, more importantly, easier availability to any person needing to research within the prothonotary's office.”

An Army combat veteran who works as a freight conductor with CSX, Shipley said he will have an “open door” policy to make himself available to address taxpayers' concerns.

Hudson, 56, of North Union, is a jury commissioner and owns a catering business. She noted her work in the jury commissioners office during the past six years has given her an understanding of the prothonotary's duties.

She said she will work with the staff to determine whether any operational changes are needed.

“The girls do a wonderful job in there, running the office very smoothly and well,” Hudson said. “I will work with them, and if there are changes to be made, we will work on them.”

Pritchard, 61, of Fairchance is in the process of trying to eliminate the other three candidates through court action.

In the filings, he has challenged the candidates' nominating petitions for various reasons.

Judges at the county and state level denied his challenges to Hudson's and Frankhouser's petitions, but Pritchard has asked the state Supreme Court to hear his appeals on both.

The challenge to Shipley's petition was denied at the county level, but a Commonwealth Court judge remanded it to Fayette County for a hearing. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 2 before Senior Judge Gerald Solomon.

The challenges aside, Pritchard said he wants to use his knowledge of the legal system to oversee the prothonotary's office. He said he studied to be a paralegal and has a bachelor's degree with an “emphasis” on criminal justice.

If elected, he said he will explore ways to generate additional revenue for the office. He has devised a fee schedule he says will raise $3 million, but he acknowledged his proposal would require approval from the courts.

“The president judge will have to approve the fees, which I believe he will,” Pritchard said.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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