Balloting memories: Former Benton Twp. clerk discusses politics then and now

Willie Jake Scott, 94, began his political career in 1959 as a Benton Township justice of the peace. He’s still paying attention, though he left office in 1991. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Willie Jake Scott, 94, began his political career in 1959 as a Benton Township justice of the peace. He’s still paying attention, though he left office in 1991. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — With several positions in contention at the Aug. 2 primary in Benton Township, there is one former public servant who is relishing the election season in retirement.

Willie Jake Scott, who served as township clerk from 1978-1991, worked 35 years at the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. and started his political career in 1959 as Benton Township justice of the peace.

His experiences in politics and the election season can be measured by how he’s been elected. Scott has been elected clerk through three political parties: the Citizens, Democratic and Republican parties.

While the 94-year-old is adamant he won’t run for office again, he has remained up to date on the township’s candidates.

Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski sat down with Scott to discuss his time with Benton Township and how he became its clerk.

I detect a slight accent, where are you from originally?

Nobody knows where I’m from until I open my mouth (laughs). They always say I’m somewhere south of the Ohio River. I’m from Tennessee. I was born in Alabama, until my parents moved to Mississippi. My dad would later move to Tennessee, and I married a girl from there. So, I guess I’m from all over.

What made you want to run as clerk in the first place?

I had a really good friend of mine who was the supervisor at the time. The honorable Martin J. Lane. Mr. Lane convinced me to run. I never thought I could ever do the job. Mr. Lane kept talking to me about it and finally I agreed to run. And I won.

So, you owe it all to Lane?

Oh yeah, he was a great friend to the end. Martin’s wife didn’t want him running for office when he got up in years. So, I talked to her and said I would circulate his petitions and come get him to bring him to the board meetings.

Since the Aug. 2 primary is coming up, do you have any tips for campaigning?

I’ve got my own secret way of doing things (laughs). I believe that you live the life that people know what you stand for. If someone’s got a shady record or attitude, then that candidate is not going to get elected. You just got to be personable.

What do you miss most about representing Benton Township?

I miss the senior citizens. I had a great relationship with senior citizens. I mean they would call me over anything as small as a leaking faucet. This one lady had a leaking faucet and she was 92 years old. She couldn’t get it to stop. I knew what the problem was, so I got a rubber ring, a washer and wrench and fixed it for her.

Is there anything you won’t miss?

I didn’t mind the criticism. It kept me awake. It kept me alert. Criticism is part of the job. If it got personal, I would have to talk to them. Very few times in my 14 years as clerk, did I have a problem.

Why did you leave in 1991?

Well, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. I had also been in there so long, and my wife was getting unhappy. And my daughter was getting unhappy. I thought I had stayed long enough, and I got out. The family just felt I had been there long enough. But I like the current board we have now. And I respect them for everything they’ve done for the township.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 25, 2016)


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