501der Women 2022: Faulkner County Circuit Clerk’s Office becomes The Million Dollar Team

By Lori Dunn

Over the past six years, new innovations and improvements in technology have helped the Faulkner County Circuit Clerk’s Office save money, become more customer-friendly, and serve as a model for other counties.

“The past six years have been a whirlwind. We just went in and made a lot of changes,” said Circuit Clerk Crystal Taylor. “We have cut the overall budget by 15%. Today, Faulkner County has one of the most innovative and efficient Circuit Clerk’s Office in the state of Arkansas,” Taylor said.

Taylor was elected in 2016 and took office the following year. She said the changes could not have happened without the ideas and willingness of the office staff. There are 10 full-time and four part-time staff members.

“When I came into office, we didn’t know each other. It took some team building and trust and I started asking for their ideas on how to do things more efficiently, and I would take their ideas into consideration and try to implement them,” Taylor said.

One of the first changes included adding an accounting program to an existing copy machine. Previously, customers would go to the building next door where they would print or make copies of land records. Once finished, they would need to return to that building to pay for copies. The process was improved by adding a counter on each terminal to keep up with the copies that were printed, and then staff would collect the entire fee at checkout. “It saves a lot of time,” Taylor said.

Another change was made with the addition of an Adobe Acrobat software program that helped with transferring cases to the County Clerk’s Office. Previously, an entire case file that was digital would have to be printed out and some information omitted when transferring a case on an adoption file, Taylor said. The new software allows the data to be updated without the need to print and sends the information digitally.

Another innovation was the electronic transcript of appeal, which originally required digital data to be printed on paper and then weeks of work numbering it and putting it together. Once completed, the transcript would have to be driven to the Arkansas Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, where the paper file was then unbound and scanned by staff to turn it electronic again. Taylor and her staff worked with the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office to pilot the creation of a digital transcript for a one-year period, providing both a paper file and an electronic one that was created with Adobe. This worked so well that the Arkansas Supreme Court issued that all transcripts be performed by electronic method.

“That’s a huge honor because it not only helped our county but our entire state,” Taylor said. “I had been driving to Little Rock for this and asked if I could create something electronically.” The office also assisted in the training of other county circuit clerks.

She also decided to streamline the staff through attrition. Five full-time positions were not refilled due to retirement or someone leaving, which saved the county money.

Since 2017, the office has received four Arkansas Digital Transformation Awards and two Data Quality Excellence Awards from the Administrative Office of the Arkansas Supreme Court, according to Taylor.

“I am very proud of the accomplishments we have made in making a government office more efficient while providing better services to our citizens,” she said. “This year alone, I will be giving back over $900,000 to the County General Fund, totaling $1,750,000 since taking office.”