County looks to begin transition

NEW CUMBERLAND – The impending retirement of Hancock County Clerk Eleanor Straight will leave a leadership vacuum in the clerk’s office, but county commissioners hope to name a successor sometime next month.

After 36 years in Hancock County government – 33 of those years in the clerk’s office – Straight said she’s ready to retire.

“I’ve hit 70, so I figure it’s time to move on. Time to take a break,” she said.

Straight’s retirement is effective Aug. 31. Commissioners will then have 30 days to name a successor, according to the West Virginia Code.

“We would probably appoint someone in July to start breaking them in,” Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

Straight said she, too, hopes the commissioners appoint someone sooner than later so she has time to work with the individual. She plans to meet with commissioners today to discuss the matter.

Commissioners already have received queries from people who are interested in the position, Straight said. Whoever is appointed county clerk, because it is an elected position, will have to win election in 2014 if he or she wants to complete the unexpired portion of Straight’s six-year term, she said.

Whoever wins the 2014 election will serve through January 2017 – the end of Straight’s term – regardless of whether he or she wins the November 2016 general election, said Jake Glance, spokesman for West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

The commissioners’ appointee also must come from the same political party as Straight, a Democrat, Glance said.

Straight began her service as Hancock County clerk when she was appointed by commissioners in October 1989, she said. She last was re-elected in November 2010.

Straight said whoever commissioners choose will “need to know something about the office” so there is an orderly, smooth transition.

The county clerk is the official record keeper for the county commissioners and handles all election-related matters, including voter registrations and results. The clerk’s office does the bookkeeping for the county and administers civil service tests for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

The staff of the clerk’s office also is entrusted with permanent court records such as births, deaths, marriages and mortgages, and probate records such as wills and estates, she said.

Straight oversees an office of five staff members in the recording office, two in bookkeeping and two in elections.

“There’s quite a bit going on here,” she said. “It’s a very busy office.”

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