Myla Eldridge, the former deputy director and director of elections, a Democrat, made Hoosier history in the November election by becoming the first African-American to be voted Marion County Clerk. She stated she had some key advantages on her campaign, including the endorsement of Democratic incumbent Clerk Beth White, and also by campaigning with another Democratic candidate, Sheryl Lynch, who successfully won election to become the first Black and the first female Municipal Court Judge.
The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper talked with Eldridge recently about the road to the Clerk’s office.
Who has helped you get to this point?
“My parents have been awesome to me. And there have been women who gave me opportunities that changed my life, including (former deputy mayor) Melina Kennedy, (former clerk) Beth White, and (Mt. Zion Apostolic Church) Pastor Patricia Germany. I feel very grateful for them.”
“I don’t know how many women can say this. They started out being my boss, and along the way they became my sisters. I still have a great relationship with them. They helped me evolve into the woman I am today.”
What would you like to do next?
“We need to groom more young people for leadership. I’ll be 50 next year.
I want to, if I can, groom some of the millennial generation and get them involved in democracy. I was so happy following the election. I got quite a few emails and phone calls from 18-year-olds saying they were excited to vote in the past election.”
What do you like about campaigning?
“How cool is it for a voter or resident when they open their door to actually see the candidate, you’re actually able to see the candidate, touch the candidate. Can you touch every single body? No, but you can make an effort to try. Everyone can’t write a $500 check. At the end of the day, the people vote you in. Running for clerk, that’s what I did– I went everywhere. Every community event, community association, whoever would let me inside their door, I was there.”
What were your campaign promises?
“I promised everybody, that every day that I would govern, I would take with me my eight years of experience, my energy, my excellence, and most importantly, the Lord.”
How long has your Christian faith been important to you?
“It’s always been there. I had my first holy communion when I was 11 or 12.
It’s always been my base. One of my favorite verses is, ‘I pray to the most high God from whom all blessings flow.’ That was the scripture that carried me through the campaign, because I felt blessed. Another is, ‘God’s people perish from a lack of knowledge.’ We’ve got to educate the community.”
Are you excited about being the first African-American woman to be Marion County Clerk?
It is definitely an honor but for me, it’s so low on the totem poll because that’s not why I ran for office. I ran for office, because I care about the office and I have the experience. It excites me to conduct free and fair elections for everybody. Being the first African-American female to hold that office, it is an honor, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t run for the office because I was Black. I give all the honor to God. He could have chosen someone else.
In very basic terms, please explain what the Clerk’s office does.
“The Clerk’s office is responsible for conducting the elections, all court filings are filed in the clerk’s office. The clerk is responsible for collecting, processing and issuing child support payments. To even make it simpler, you could say that the clerk is the trustee for child support and chief financial officer for court filings, criminal, civil, marriage licenses. The Clerk’s office is used by everyone in the county. When you need a marriage license or a voter registration, we teach about the voting process in Marion County and hold mock elections. We have a presence at the naturalization ceremony.”
If you would, tell us a bit about your personal life.
“Well, my sons are Robert, Chaz and Carl. I got divorced about 10 years ago.
It didn’t take a counselor or Dr. Phil to tell me, you know, that this is not how I want to live the rest of my life. Since (the divorce) I’ve been so busy, I landed in the clerk’s office, I’ve been serving on different boards and raising my boys is very, very important to me. They were my priority, my boys. Now my youngest turned 21. Would I be open to a new relationship? Yes, absolutely. I don’t plan to grow old by myself!”
When do you think Indianapolis will have a Black mayor?
“Look at myself and Sheryl. The change is definitely coming. But even with that, at the end of the day, it’s about whether the person is qualified for the job.”