One cites his experience as a working attorney while the other cites his organizational skills as qualifications for the job. Both say they are deeply dedicated to public service.

On Nov. 6, voters in Dukes County will choose between T. George Davis and Anthony Piland for a six-year term as Dukes County clerk of courts.

Longtime superior court clerk Joseph E. Sollitto Jr. is retiring after 42 years on the job, opening the door for a new face to occupy the second-floor corner office in the Edgartown courthouse.

Current duties for the clerk of courts include running the administrative side of the superior court, administering the jury system, serving as an assistant magistrate for the district court, issuing writs or other processes as court orders and presiding as the county parking clerk.

Mr. Davis is an attorney who lives in Vineyard Haven and defeated Edgartown attorney Charlie Morano in the Democratic party primary in September. Mr. Piland is a physician’s assistant who lives in Vineyard Haven and is running as an unenrolled candidate.

In interviews with the Gazette this week, both candidates spoke about their qualifications for the job and the issues facing the court system today.

T. George Davis

George Davis has lived and practiced law on the Island since the mid-1990s. He is 64. He received a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. After working at a corporate firm in Washington, D.C., he moved to the Island and began a private practice that for the past two decades has focused primarily on civil litigation. Mr. Davis has served on the board of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and MV Youth, and is also an accomplished jazz musician who studied at the Berklee College of Music.

“The clerk of courts is a public service position so it ties into my interest in being involved in the community,” he said. “Joe Sollitto has been doing this for over 40 years, and he’s left a tremendous legacy for how the court should run. It’s an opportunity for someone to continue that legacy and maintain his very high standards, which I believe I am prepared to do.”

Mr. Davis cited his extensive legal experience working with the county court system as one of his main qualifications for the job that among other things involves working with lawyers in complex judicial processes. The superior court handles civil cases that exceed $50,000, as well as serious criminal cases, including drug offenses and violent crimes.

“As someone who has been involved in the court system as an attorney for all these years, I know it is vitally important that the clerk’s office runs well and is staffed by people who know what they are doing,” Mr. Davis said.

“It’s a job for lawyers,” he continued. “From day one you have to handle things that are rules from a 2,000-page book and that involve people’s rights and liberties. If you are called upon day one to issue a search warrant and you don’t know the standard, how would you handle that? How would you handle a small claims case where you have to decide whether a contract is legitimate or not? It is a job that requires legal expertise, legal skill, and legal knowledge, because a lot is at stake.”

Because a judge only presides formally over the Dukes County superior court for two months of the year, in spring and fall, cases can often move slowly through the system. Mr. Davis said if elected he would work to expedite the superior court’s judicial process by offering more pretrial conferences and mediation. He said the last case he tried in superior court took nine years.

“A mediation or dispute resolution option for litigants is one thing that I would like to bring, along with pretrial conferences,” Mr. Davis said. “I think it would be a tremendous advantage to the system and the litigants, and I think the judges would like it. People get better justice if you can move things along.”

He spoke about his commitment to the justice system, emphasizing that it has been part of his life for the past 30 years.

“Justice is so paramount to me,” Mr. Davis said. “I grew up in the civil rights era and saw how the justice system impacted not just individuals but our entire society. It’s part of my DNA, almost. You have to get it right, you have to know what you’re doing. There’s no training that substitutes for legal training. I’m ready for this.”

Anthony Piland

Anthony Piland is a resident of Vineyard Haven who has lived on the Island for the past 10 years. He is 51. He graduated from Quinnipiac University with a master’s of health science in 1998. He has worked as a senior physician’s assistant at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital since 2011. Outside of work, Mr. Piland has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, served on the board of Sail MV, and is currently pursuing his MBA. Before his career in medicine, he served as a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force.

He cited his commitment to public service as the main reason he decided to run for the clerk of courts position.

“I was in the Air Force for six years,” he said. “I just really love serving and I believe there is no higher position or calling than public service. I really want to give back to the community.”

Mr. Piland said his lack of experience working in the court system should not preclude him from consideration. Although there is no requirement that the clerk of courts needs to have a legal degree, or even live in Dukes County, the majority of the state’s 70-odd clerks do have law degrees and many of those who don’t spend years working in court systems before running for the job. Mr. Piland has spent his entire professional career in medicine.

“As a clerk, the administrative role is just as important as understanding the legal aspects,” he said. “Those legal aspects can be acquired and learned, and I don’t think it takes years to do that. There are a lot of people who are in medicine who go on to pursue a career in public service.”

In Massachusetts, all newly elected clerks go through a training session that mainly involves familiarization with the court’s computer system and filing processes. Mr. Piland said if elected, he will be part of a network of clerks who can assist him while he learns on the job.

“Of course, from day one, I am not going to know everything I need to know,” he said. “But I have resources, I look up things. It’s very close to medicine, the legal system. We look up things all the time even if you are checking the steps or know them by heart. You don’t want to screw up, but I’m not the judge. I’m the clerk. Liza Williamson will be there, so it’s not like I will be by myself.”

Ms. Williamson is the clerk-magistrate for the Edgartown district court.

Mr. Piland said if he is elected he hopes to improve the court’s public image and update its technology.

“It definitely needs to be brought into the 21st century,” he said. “They are in the process of trying to get into e-filing. I think that’s the biggest thing, the technology needs to be updated.”

He concluded: “This job is procedures and processes. I feel that if I am given an opportunity I can prove myself . . . if I am given the chance to represent I will give it 110 per cent.”