MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert has been in the headlines lately for her office’s handling of the new license plate rollout.

Halbert is up for re-election this August, and is facing two contenders for the job: Independent candidate Harold C. Smith and Republican Jeff Jacobs.

WREG is taking a closer look at this important county race.

In a news conference this week, Halbert defended herself under intense pressure with an extreme backlog of new license plates to get out to drivers. She says the problem all stems from a lack of funding coming from the county commission.

She admitted she no longer can do this job alone.

“I am begging the state of Tennessee to come in,” Halbert said, echoing a call made by Memphis auto dealers for the state to step in and handle the license plate backlog.

WREG spoke to Jacobs, the Republican candidate, while on break at his current job working in benefits for Bartlett City Schools. He said he sees what’s happening with the license plates, and says planning and automation are key.

“Once all the new plates are issued, I would love to get kiosks in every location,” Jacobs said. At this point, he said, that’s just a plan, and he’d have to make it work in the office’s budget.

Smith, the independent, is an educator. He says there’s no place for politics in the clerk’s office.

His plans also include kiosks and better service.

“We need a fresh start,” Smith said. “I want to use QR codes to scan a QR cod,e and then have the information for scheduling your appointment at a particular branch.”

Currently, the Shelby County Clerk’s office has six locations. The Germantown location closed in 2020 after Halbert said the county let the lease run out without finding another option.

Aug. 4 county elections

Early voting for the Aug. 4 county elections begins July 15. You can find a list of early voting locations here and more information about the elections here.