Lively GOP primary race shaping up for clerk of court

Rachel Sadoff and Sandy Ruizzo each want to succeed veteran Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis, who plans to retire in 2020.

Sadoff and Ruizzo are expected to face off on Aug. 18, 2020, in the Republican primary. And if nobody from another party files to run, it becomes a universal primary, open to all voters to pick the new clerk.

Judging from their experience, both life-long deputy clerks have the skills to do the job, where so much is defined by state law and little wiggle room is left for politics. But where they got their experience seems to be the main issue.

Sadoff, 44, of West Melbourne, was born in Coral Gables but grew up in Brevard County. She started her career in 1997 as a court clerk under the late Clerk of Court Sandy Crawford.

The coming years would see her supervising numerous departments, such as customer service, data entry, scanning and records management, as well as the court clerks.

She received a bachelor’s degree in professional studies in 2008, followed by a master’s in administration in 2012, both from Barry University in Miami. She is now the manager of Ellis’ Viera branch and has his endorsement.

Ruizzo, 52, of Palm Bay, was born in New York, but moved with her family to Homestead as a child and to the Kissimmee-St. Cloud area during middle school. She got her first job in 1987 as a docketing clerk for the Osceola County Clerk of Court’s Office.

The following years would see her rise through the ranks in the Felony Division, to civil and criminal administration. She retired in 2017 as director of the court-clerk operations.

That was two years after she moved from Osceola County to Palm Bay to be closer to the job of her husband, Donnie Ruizzo, as a Palm Bay water-meter reader.

“I love it here,” she says. “I always have. I used to be a visitor, but now I’m a resident.”

And that’s a critical difference, Sadoff says. She has been in Brevard County since childhood. She has roots in the community and knows the people who work with the Clerk’s Office.

“I believe the clerk must work with all stakeholders including other government agencies, private sector businesses, the public, the judiciary and (the office’s own) employees,” Sadoff says. “I have been and will remain positive, informative and responsible.”

Sadoff said Brevard clerks lived through the harm a newcomer, without local roots, can do when former Clerk Mitch Needelman was elected in 2012 and fired about 100 clerks, offering them outsourcing contracts, which allowed them to return but without any county benefits.

“You can say you won’t make any changes,” Sadoff says. “But we know. We’ve been there. We’ve lived through it.”

Ruizzo says she has never heard of Needelman. But she can relate to the outsourced clerks because Osceola County voters in 2008 elected Malcolm Thompson as clerk. And he cleaned house. Ruizzo went to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office as a legal clerk.

“I can relate,” Ruizzo says. “I know exactly how they feel because I know what it’s like when a new clerk comes in and you don’t know whether you’re going to have a job or not. I wouldn’t do that – but I was one of them.”

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