Janice and Tolbert Morris have been serving the community in some capacity since they came to Rockdale County 15 years ago, whether it’s starting a free health clinic or serving in law enforcement. Now, they’re looking at serving in a new way. The husband and wife team announced they are forming exploratory committees for two 2016 elected positions – Probate Judge for Tolbert and Clerk of State and Superior Courts for Janice.
Tolbert Morris, a Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office courthouse deputy and former school board member, said, “We’re running because we see [positions] we know we will be good at. We’re running because we think we can move that position forward, create new programs that are going to benefit the people… We’re going to help Rockdale County be successful in every way we can. We’ve done that in the past and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Tolbert. “Let the people know that… we’re serving their interest, not our own self-interest.”
Janice, currently the outreach service coordinator for Oakhurst’s Conyers clinic for the uninsured, said “It’s time. We have been doing this for years. We are to the point where, why not. We can do the job. Anytime someone wanted something from the courthouse, hospitals, who do they call? Janice and Tolbert. We reach all of Conyers-Rockdale.”
Tolbert said his background in law enforcement, working in the courthouse and previously serving as a bailiff for Superior Court Judge David Irwin has given him a good background in working with people and resolving problems – one of the tasks of the Probate Judge.
“I want to see that office become respectful again,” he said.
Janice said she has had experience in administration and team building for most of her working life. She was a supervisor for eight out of the 11 years she worked for Cigna, she said. “Project management is my background and healthcare record keeping… I’m a visionary. I get the job done. I’m hands on. I keep my records straight.”
She also pointed out the incumbent Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson and other predecessors did not have a legal background when they took office.
Tolbert previously served in elected office as a member of the Rockdale County school board from 2005-2009 when he ran unopposed for Post 1 in 2004. During that time, the school board hired Rockdale’s first black Superintendent, saw the opening of Rockdale Career Academy and made Adequate Yearly Progress under the former No Child Left Behind federal mandate. He also gave up working as a deputy during that time, despite the strain on the family’s finances, in order to serve on the school board when he learned he could not serve under two oaths in the same county. In 2012, he had also announced a bid to run for Sheriff but withdrew that bid.
The Morrises are co-founders of the Helping Hands free health clinic and afterschool program located in Lakeview Estates. They estimate they’ve given away more than 1,000 computers through the technology effort of the nonprofit.
Although it may seem early to announce for 2016, they said they wanted to be first out the gate in order for Rockdale residents to have time to get to know them and to make sure they have support and commitment in the community. Residents had asked them to run for various seats before, they said, but they felt for themselves that this was the right time to run.
The Morrises, who have been married for about 15 years, attend Springfield Baptist Church and have four adult children and three grandchildren. They can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.