First Black candidate for parish clerk John 'Tree' Smith says office needs transparency
With more than 35 years in the Tangipahoa Clerk of Courts Office, Smith --a former deputy clerk-- says he is determined to secure and maintain vital public records
“If elected next month, I will become the first Black Clerk of Court for Tangipahoa Parish,” said John Tree Smith. “This accomplishment alone would speak volumes about the people of this parish. I don’t want the voters to elect me because I am a man of color, but I want them to elect me because they believe that I am the best candidate for the job, who just happens to be Black.”
As a former deputy clerk with more than 35 years in the Tangipahoa Clerk of Courts Office, Smith said he has seen records destroyed and mishandled in ways that made important records unavailable to the public. As a result, he said he is determined to secure and maintain vital public records.
The Clerk of Court’s role is extensive. It is the overseer of all elections for Tangipahoa Parish and works with the Registrars of Voters’ Office to ensure integrity, safety, and accessibility. It provides passports, marriage licenses, and birth and death certificates to the public. Lawsuits are filed and criminal records, mortgages, and land ownership transactions are recorded at the Clerk of Court.
“But the most important role I believe for the clerk of courts office is to be the Keeper of Public Records. The public pays significantly to have documents recorded with the clerk’s office and these documents must be well maintained, organized, and always available to the public whenever they are requested,” Smith said.
He graduated from Amite High School, Copiah Lincoln Jr. College, and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Academy. For 29 years, he has been pastor of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Arcola, Louisiana. He is president of Amite Area Bitty Basketball Inc., and is a board member of the Neola Farm Sports Complex and Hood’s Memorial Hospital.
He is also a deputy with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Civil Division and a sergeant with the Amite Police Department Reserve Division.
Last month, Smith earned endorsement from the Tangipahoa Parish Democratic Executive Committee. “I am not a lifelong politician; I am a hard-working citizen of this parish…If elected as the next clerk of court for Tangipahoa parish, the residents of our parish will have someone that’s approachable inside and outside the office,” he said.
Absentee voting is September 30 - October 7, 2023. The Primary Election is Saturday, October 14, 2023, 7am - 8pm.