OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Chris Priest new Morgan clerk of court
By Tiffeny Owens
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Morgan County Circuit Clerk candidate Chris Priest checks poll numbers on his cellphone on Tuesday night at the Blackburn, Maloney and Schuppert LLC law office in downtown Decatur.

Decatur attorney Chris Priest won the Morgan County Circuit Clerk's race by a landslide Tuesday against Democratic nominee Martin Steelmon.

With 57 of 59 precincts reporting at press time, Republican candidate Priest had 33,257 votes, or 74 percent, to Steelmon's 11,938 votes, or 26 percent. Priest will replace John Pat Orr, who is retiring from the clerk's office after 18 years of service.

"Tonight's results validate all of the hard work from so many people," said Priest, who watched returns with family, friends and colleagues at his law firm. "We have been overwhelmed by the support. It's just amazing to me because I don't even know 34,000 people, but obviously they felt like I had the kind of experience the office needs."

Steelmon, 52, is a retired pastor and resides in Priceville. He trailed Priest the entire night and did not return a call for comment late Tuesday.

Priest, who has practiced law for 13 years, plans to evaluate the clerk's office needs and prioritize resolving them. State budget cuts over the past six years have whittled the staff of 22 to 10. Priest also wants to solicit the Morgan County Commission's approval to consolidate the clerk's office on the first floor with the one on the fourth.

"The worst thing you can do is just come in and change everything," Priest said. "Anything that's done will be done in a orderly fashion, and it will be a team effort."

He added: "John Pat has done a phenomenal job with the cards he's been dealt. I think I can bring a different perspective with my law experience."

Priest will be sworn into a six-year term in January. The annual salary is roughly $69,000. The circuit clerk manages multiple divisions, including circuit, district and juvenile courts, and its employees are divided among them.

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