In the 2003 Carroll County election, Durward Stanton was a political newcomer in an eight-man race for the Carroll County Circuit Clerk position.
With all candidates running on the Democratic ticket, the race would be decided in the Primary Election. Stanton finished second in the vote count in the primary, propelling him to a runoff election which he would eventually win. He took office as circuit clerk in January 2004, and 17 years later, he still holds that seat.
Stanton didn’t particularly aspire for a career in politics. Prior to the 2003 election, Stanton had a career as an educator and a coach. However, the chance to work in his hometown, serving his native county was an opportunity he decided to seize.
“Truthfully, I had no interest in politics,” Stanton said.
When longtime Carroll County Circuit Clerk Charles Ellis announced he planned to retire and not seek re-election, Stanton said he began mulling the idea of jumping into the race.
“It was a chance to get back to Vaiden,” he said.
Stanton was born in Vaiden, literally. The son of Frank and Floyce Stanton, he was one of the last babies delivered by Dr. H.R. Powers at the Vaiden Clinic.
“I grew up in Jackson and lived there until I was nine, but both sets of grandparents were [in Vaiden], and we moved back,” Stanton said.
After returning to Vaiden, Stanton attended East Holmes Academy for two years before moving to Winona Academy, now Winona Christian School, where he graduated. He continued his education at Mississippi State University until a near-fatal accident put his higher education on hold.
“As a sophomore [at Mississippi State], I had a motorcycle accident that knocked me out of school for a year,” Stanton said.
Stanton, who was home from school for the weekend, was riding his motorcycle south on Highway 51 to the Vaiden Co-op where he worked part-time. As he approached downtown Vaiden, he collided with a truck that was pulling onto the highway. His injuries were severe, and he faced a long road to recovery.
“I stayed in intensive care for nine days,” Stanton said. “God gave me a second lease on life.”
The next school year, Stanton attended Holmes Community College, where he played baseball. He went on to the University of Southern Mississippi but eventually returned to Mississippi State where he received his Bachelors of Science degree in Secondary Science Education. He would return a few years later to earn his Masters in Educational Leadership.
Stanton began his career in education in Hathaway, La., a place still near and dear to his heart and he visits often.
“I fell in love with the people there and the culture – the Cajun food,” he said.
When the chance to return home presented itself, Stanton accepted a position at his alma mater, Winona Academy. He taught science and coached at the Winona school for five years before accepting a position at Houston High School in Germantown, Tenn.
“Memphis was not for me,” Stanton said.
He returned to Carroll County and spent the next six years at Carroll Academy.
Stanton ventured into the business sector for two-and-a-half years as the plant personnel manager and personnel trainer at Viking Range in Greenwood. He said he enjoyed the work and the people, but teaching and coaching were where he excelled. He returned to Winona Academy to teach and coach, leading the Lady Stars basketball team to a state championship. He remained there until he was elected circuit clerk.
When he was newly-elected as clerk, Stanton focused on learning the job. He said he was blessed with several people who helped with his transition from educator to circuit clerk. He thanked longtime Deputy Circuit Clerk Brenda King and former Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Julie Halfacre for their time and experience as he found his stride, and his fellow circuit clerks in the Mississippi Circuit Clerks Association were always willing to help when needed.
“We have a great statewide association,” Stanton said. “We always tell each other we are family. I still reach out if I need to, even after 17 years in the job. It is great to have that support network.”
Over the years, Stanton has served in every executive role at the Mississippi Circuit Clerks Association – president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. He remains an active member of the association as he is currently the Legislative co-chairman for the association. He was also appointed by the Mississippi Legislature to serve on the Election Law Reform Task Force, by the Mississippi Supreme Court to serve on the Justice Court Law Task Force, and by the Mississippi Secretary of State to serve on the Statewide Elections Management System and the Mississippi Voting Systems Advisory Group.
As circuit clerk, elections fell under Stanton’s purview, and at first, that role was his most challenging.
“Elections were a challenge themselves because you are trying to run them with integrity and translucency,” he said. “On election night, we make sure to be completely transparent.”
Stanton said thanks to cooperative party chairs and stellar election commissioners over the years, elections have run smoothly throughout his years in office, and he has never had an election contested.
“We have been extremely blessed here,” Stanton said. “I’ve always had a good relationship with the party chairmen. I’ve always had a good relationship with George Johnson, who was the Democratic chair. And the election commission. We all have the same goal. We want to run a clean transparent election. Turf wars and personal agendas have never entered into it.”
Of course, the circuit clerk’s office does much more than just facilitate elections and voter registration for the county. In addition to overseeing circuit and chancery courts in Carroll County’s Southern District, Stanton is the county’s inventory clerk and is also tasked with overseeing accounting and budget management for the Vaiden Courthouse.
“As for the bookkeeping and accounting, we have an account for everything,” Stanton said. “All of that was a challenge starting out. I wanted to be as efficient as possible.”
He said success in his position is not possible without the great support staff he’s had over the years. In addition to King, who retired in recent years, Tinesha Erve-Earnest served as deputy clerk prior to her being elected the Southern District Justice Court Judge of Carroll County in 2020. Today, Christy Noah and Mary Lofton serve as deputy clerks in Stanton’s office.
“I’m very blessed with two great ladies now, and I have always been blessed with wonderful clerks,” Stanton said. “They are the rock stars. I’m just the warm-up band.”
Stanton is the father of two sons, Jonathan and Ben. Jonathan Stanton, a civil engineer, works as the head of the Environmental Services Division of the Jefferson Davis Health Department in Birmingham, Ala. Ben Stanton and his wife, Rachael, worked for years as independent missionaries in Ghana in West Africa. Recently, he accepted a position at Liberty University where he will finish his undergraduate degree before returning to Ghana where he hopes to build a program affiliated with Liberty University.
He is the grandfather of two, Silas, 6, and Joshua, 13.
Outside the office, Stanton enjoys working on his cattle farm. He also serves as the interim pastor at New Salem Baptist Church in Carroll County.