Clay County’s Operation Green Light was a big success on Saturday, October 12th, with nearly three dozen citizens assisted, fourteen (14) of whom were able to have their driver license reinstated on that same day. More than $11,000 in unpaid and overdue court costs, fines and fees were collected by Clerk’s Office staff, all prompted by the one-day-only waiver of some fees.
Clay County Clerk of Court Tara S. Green was on site at the event and expressed how pleased she is to know citizens were able to save money and get back on the road. “Being able to drive legally is a huge deal, and that’s why dozens of people took advantage of this opportunity locally, “ Green said. “For some, it means being able to get a better job, or being able to drive their children to school, or to simply get the weight of debt off their shoulders.”
Operation Green Light, once a pilot program first tested in Clay County in 2015, is now expected to become an annual, statewide initiative with legislative support, although the time of year it is conducted may vary, says Green. Green will meet soon with state legislators and other Clerks of Court to discuss opportunities to better enhance the event in upcoming years.
“We will analyze the 2019 Operation Green Light results and suggestions once that data comes in from other Florida counties, and then discuss how best to continue this effort,” she said.
In Clay County, the feedback was mainly positive. Thirty-five (35) citizens came into the Clerk’s Office Orange Park Branch during the five hour special weekend opening. Twenty-five (25) of those also visited the Tax Collector’s Office nearby, partners in this event. A total of fourteen citizens were able to pay off their debts fully and get their driver license reinstated immediately. Many more also became eligible to have their licenses reinstated after paying off local debts, but need more time to obtain additional funds to settle their debt with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). They were at least able to take a step in the right direction. “We are doing our part,” Clerk of Court Green stated. “The issue is that good folks want to make good on their court and traffic debt, but it piles up over time and becomes too big a hole for them to dig out of.” Clerk’s Office Compliance Department staff also discuss payment plan options with citizens who find themselves in this situation.
Clerks working the event understand that license reinstatement can be an emotional process. In one case, a middle-aged man came in Saturday, paid off his fines and was able to finally get his license back. For the first time in ten years he is now able to drive the streets of Clay County legally. This accomplishment brought the man to tears in the Clerk’s Office, along with the family members who came with him to show their support.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Green said. “We are here to help people, and Operation Green Light is just one way we can do that each year.”