Marshall inspired for final campaign stretch


Gwen Marshall

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

The first Sunday that clerk of court, comptroller candidate Gwen Marshall showed up for church, following the primary elections, she was besieged with congratulatory handshakes and hugs.

The gestures stunned her as she quickly realized that many of her supporters had a misconception about what the primary outcome meant. They didn’t know that although she won that race, Marshall still has to face Franklin Ayetin in the Nov. 8 election.

Now she is faced with the challenge of making sure that she isn’t overlooked on the ballot. So in addition to touting her 17 years experience with the clerk’s association that she would bring to the position, Marshall has to clarify whatever confusion remains over the primary results.

‘No,” said Marshall, who outdistanced her two Democratic opponents in the primary. “I’m not done yet. I’ve got one more hurdle. I’m very concerned.”

But her campaign manager Keith Rogers isn’t too concerned. He’s advised her to stick to the same strategy that they used – never mind that it’s considered unorthodox with a grass root approach.

Not to mention that Marshall has never been in an election before and Rogers, an entertainment guru, never managed a campaign. All he relied on was mostly social media and word-of-mouth.

It’s the same approach that has made him a celebrity of sorts in local entertainment circles.

“I didn’t know what a campaign manager is supposed to do but I knew what I can do,” Rogers said, adding that he had to reject the talking heads who were telling him that he needed a more conventional approach for Marshall.

“I say yeah; that might be true but in every election only one campaign wins,” he said. “But because they went with what they did, it doesn’t mean she has to go with what they did. She just said win with Gwen.”

Surprisingly they did resoundingly in the primary. Marshall took 47.23 percent of the votes with her closest rival receiving 28.14 percent in the three-person field.

While it seemed the win was easy, the work wasn’t Marshall said. She expects more of the same during the next five weeks.

“There have been a lot of surprises,” she said. “I’m not going to take them for granted (and) I’m not going to take the motives for granted.”

Marshall said she emphasized the importance of the position she is seeking by explaining that she’d engage the community to find ways for improving the services.

The county clerks handle traffic tickets, marriage licenses, and cases that go through the Leon County courts.

Marshall didn’t begin her professional career aspiring to become clerk of courts. She unsuspectingly took a job in the office and eventually found herself being one of the most dependable.

But a few years in, she was beckoned to the food service business, an interest she said she’s had since starting out as a server while attending college in Vero Beach. A franchise restaurant was so impressed with her resume that it offered a managerial position.

But their negotiation hit a snag when she didn’t have a required master’s degree. She returned to the clerk’s office and has been there since, although she flirted with the idea of becoming a full-fledged politician.

What she discovered as she looked into such a pursuit wasn’t encouraging, she said.

“It felt like even if you had the best intentions, people who go into the legislature with the best intent in some kind of way turn out crooked,” she said. “That turned me off because I didn’t know what role I was going to play. I don’t know if I could swim with the sharks.”

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