Akinyemi, Marshall share similar goals

[subtitle] Both are first Blacks elected to their positions[/subtitle]


Akin Akinyemi campaigned on a shoe-string budget and won a close election last month.

Gwen Marshall

Gwen Marshall

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

After running campaigns on shoe-string budgets and beating the odds to get elected to their respective positions, Gwen Marshall and Akin Akinyemi are going into office with at least one intent that’s similar.

They plan to launch awareness efforts to help the public understand the functions of their offices. Akinyemi will take over as the new property appraiser, while Marshall will take over the clerk of court/comptroller office.

Not only do they share the same goals of educating the public about their duties and their responsibilities, both have a couple of firsts for the city and county. Akinyemi is the first Black property appraiser and Marshall is the first woman in the clerk of court position as well as being the first Black to do so in Leon County.

Both said they are expecting some degree of scrutiny as first-time holders of their respective positions.
One issue that Marshall wants the public to know is that her office doesn’t set the cost of court fees, which are among the highest in the country. Those are set by state laws, which the clerk of court has to follow, she said.

In Akinyemi’s case, he said that home owners should know they have the right to double-check their property taxes before paying. The value adjustment board is already in place to help with that, he said.
“I don’t want to create an avalanche of people disputing their taxes,” said Akinyemi, who headed up the adjustment board when he served on the Leon County Commission, “but I want people to be aware.”

Akinyemi, 57, is no stranger to elected office, having served four years as an at-large Leon County commissioner. That plus being a licensed architect with an extensive background in pricing homes will help him administer his role, he said.

“It’s just a matter of taking those skill sets and applying it to the prevailing market conditions,” said Col. Wilson Barnes, a staunch supporter of Akinyemi. “I know there are formulas and I know that’s the way Akin is going to go after it. He is more than the best qualified person for that job.
“Akin is a breath of fresh air. I think he will have some very creative ideas and using technology. He is that kind of person.”

But given some of the concerns raised during an intense campaign against Greg Lane, Akinyemi said being second-guessed isn’t out of the question.

“So many people expect you to fail so you try to work against that,” he said. “Certain people work to prove themselves right because there are certain notions for them and to prove their notion right they are going to try whatever they can.”

However, he maintained that he will be an advocate for “sensible taxation policies,” using his experience as a politician.

As is the scenario that Akinyemi faces, Marshall will have to adhere to laws mandated by legislators. She is familiar with most of them, though, having spent 17 years working with the Clerk of Court Association.

She takes pride in being the first Black clerk of court, knowing that the bar might be higher for her than her predecessors. But she believes one of her biggest challenges will be to do well enough to make an impression on young people with aspirations of running for an elected office.

“It’s significant when it comes to showing our future generation, girls in particular, that not only can we perform in these roles, but we can do so successfully,” Marshall said. “That places an extra burden on me to make sure I do a great job and I’m going to be successful at what I do because everybody is watching how I fair with this position.”

While the clerk of court primarily handles court records and fees, Marshall said the other part of her new job as comptroller is one that will take all of her staff to be effective.
“I’m confident I can get in there and do a good job and the voters will see that in four years,” said Marshall, who will supervise a staff of 170.

Marshall should succeed because of her strong work ethic, said Janice Thompson, a friend and former co-worker who assisted on her campaign.

“This is just not a job for her,” Thompson said. “She feels it’s a calling.

“She is not going to ask anybody to work harder than she would herself. She is very fair and she trusts people to do their jobs. She will set the example of hard work and dedication.”