Foley named as new county clerk

NEW CUMBERLAND – Hancock County commissioners have appointed Deputy Clerk George Foley as the successor to longtime County Clerk Eleanor Straight.

Foley, of New Manchester, has been deputy clerk for seven years, during which time he has been responsible for recording judgments and other clerical duties, Straight said. He previously worked for Weirton Steel.

Straight, who retires in August after nearly 24 years as county clerk, recommended Foley’s appointment to commissioners after reviewing all the staff in her office.

“I’m very big into cross-training, so that anyone can do anyone else’s job,” Straight said. “I just needed a good administrator in there.”

An elected position, 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 also does the bookkeeping for the county and administers civil service tests for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

The clerk’s office staff is entrusted with keeping permanent court records, such as births, deaths, marriages and mortgages, and probate records, such as wills and estates. There are five staff members in the recording office, two in bookkeeping and two in elections.

“I’m very proud of my staff in every department,” Straight told commissioners during their regular meeting on Wednesday.

She praised her office staff for “their dedication to public service and making the public comfortable while in the office.”

Straight will retire at the end of August after 36 years in Hancock County government and 33 years in the clerk’s office. She was appointed clerk by commissioners in October 1989 and has won re-election ever since. She last was re-elected in November 2010.

Because West Virginia county clerks serve for six years, Foley will have to win election in 2014 in order to complete the unexpired portion of Straight’s current term. If he wins, he will serve through January 2017.

“Mrs. Straight has done a wonderful job during her tenure here,” Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said. “We looked at all the employees, and we felt we could put any one of them in that position.”

“I think we made the right decision,” Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

West Virginia Code gives commissioners 30 days after the clerk’s retirement to name a successor, but Greathouse said they wanted to appoint someone sooner than later. Straight said the appointment will give her time to work with Foley and ensure a smooth, orderly transition come Sept. 1.

Also this week, commissioners approved a new, two-year grant agreement with FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. for the funding of the Hancock County Office of Emergency Management.

The agreement, which is effective for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, covers the cost of OEM staff salary and benefits, office equipment, education and training, building and equipment rental, gasoline, vehicle maintenance and other expenses related to the county’s Radiological Emergency Response Plan.

Thomas Zielinsky, recently-retired executive director of the county’s Office of Technology and Communication, said the agreement provides for a 65 percent/35 percent split between FirstEnergy and Hancock County, with FirstEnergy covering the bulk of the expenses.

“They make sure that what you are being given is being used. These budgets are very meticulously put together. These are all calculated in terms of what our needs are,” Zielinsky said.

FirstEnergy, which operates the Beaver Valley Power Station in nearby Shippingport, Pa., contributes to the emergency management budgets of three area counties – Hancock County in West Virginia, Beaver County in Pennsylvania and Columbiana County in Ohio – because of their close proximity to the nuclear power plant.

A large portion of Hancock County lies within FirstEnergy’s emergency planning zone for the nuclear power plant – a 10-mile radius whose residents would have to be evacuated or otherwise protected from potential exposure to radioactive materials in the event of a nuclear-related emergency.

FirstEnergy will fund the Hancock County OEM in the amount of $125,441 for 2014 and $126,991 for 2015, according to the grant agreement.

Zielinsky said the agreement also provides for 3 percent annual raises for OEM Director John Paul Jones and Deputy Director Rebecca Springer.

The agreement specifies numerous conditions for the grant and limits use of the funds to the county’s Radiological Emergency Response Plan.

Commissioners also authorized Robert Vidas, Zielinsky’s successor, to advertise a request for qualifications for the purpose of selecting an architect to design, engineer and remodel the Hancock County Magistrate Court.

The court, currently on North Court Street, is moving to the old New Cumberland Dollar General building on North Chester Street, which commissioners purchased for $232,000 in February.

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