LIVINGSTON – Jason Harris officially removed the word “deputy” from his job title.
He took the oath of office as Livingston Parish Clerk of Court during a ceremony Jan. 9 at the Livingston Parish Courthouse.
He succeeded Tom Sullivan, who announced last April he would retire at the end of 2018. Sullivan won the seat in a 2000 election when he defeated incumbent Lucius Patterson.
21st Judicial District Chief Judge Bob Morrison presided over the ceremony, while District Judge Charlotte Foster administered the oath to Harris, who had his wife Jennifer at his side.
Harris will serve until at least 2021. He went unopposed in the Nov. 6 primary for a race to fill Sullivan’s unexpired term.
“The clerk’s office is the glue that holds the courthouse together, so I’m really delighted to have someone with the talent and drive for this job,” Morrison said.
District Judge Doug Hughes offered a few words of advice to Harris before the oath.
“People will forgive a mistake, but they never forgive laziness – you do work hard, so continue to do that,” he said. “Secondly, understand that when a client comes into the room, it’s the most important case they’ll ever have in their life, even though you will have many of them, you empathize with them and show your care and help them.
“If we don’t show that we care, we lose respect,” Hughes said.
Harris frequently paid homage to his mentor and predecessor – along with the staff – during and after the ceremony.
“Mr. Sullivan hired me three years ago with the faith I could work in this office and potentially run for Clerk of Court,” Harris said. “He gave me a lot of guidance in the office and out the office.
“This isn’t really all about me, though,” he said. “We’ve had some ladies here 15 and 20 years, and they know the ins and outs more than anyone.”
Sullivan also gave Harris an important piece of advice.
“He told me about 75 percent of the people here don’t want to be here because they’re here for undesirable circumstances,” Harris said. “The other 25 percent are happy, many of them getting marriage licenses.”
Sullivan hired Harris as a deputy clerk in 2015 and began the transitioning phase in August.
Harris takes over an office that underwent a radical transition during Sullivan’s 18 years at the helm.
Changes included a move to a new courthouse – a project overseen by Sullivan and Judge Morrison – as well as the shift toward electronic filing of records, which Sullivan implemented in 2013.
“It’s exciting,” said Harris on the morning after the ceremony. “Our employees make our wheels turn, and that’s not a cliché – they were all here at 8 a.m., just like they were yesterday.”
The Clerk of Court’s Office is one of the only public offices that does not operate on an ad valorem tax or sales tax. Its revenue comes from the filing documents, deeds, mortgages and civil suits.
The fees played a key role in the funding of the courthouse. A bill in the state legislature allowed for an increase in the cost of fees for documents to build the courthouse.
Ascension Parish may follow the same path with construction of its new courthouse, Harris said.
“They’re visiting here now,” he said. “This was their (previous Livingston Parish administrators) brainchild, and we’re all very fortunate to have the security and technology we have here, as opposed to the old courthouse.
“I walked into a very good situation when I came to work here – personally and professionally,” he said. “Mr. Sullivan left us in very good shape.”
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