Commissioners interview clerk applicants

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners interviewed two candidates for the clerk’s post during a special Friday session, saying they hope to make a final decision on Jamie Six’s replacement Monday.

Deputy Clerk Mark Rhodes, who currently serves as Six’s administrative assistant and has 29 years of county government experience, was recommended by Six as the clerk’s preferred replacement, and clerk’s office staff also told the commissioners earlier they would like to see Rhodes appointed.

Paul Eugene Miller, who has an educational background and work experience in public policy, working in both the government and private sector and is currently an adjunct West Virginia University at Parkersburg professor and public policy consultant for a private nonprofit, was the other interviewee.

During a brief procedural discussion Friday, commission President Wayne Dunn and Commissioner Steve Gainer questioned whether the interviews should be conducted in “private” or public session.

“This is not a closed door type of situation. This is for an elected post, and we need to remain as transparent as possible,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

That being said, the two candidates for the office shook hands and sat down at the same table before the three commissioners, literally face-to-face with each other. They each made a statement then answered questions posed by the three officials.

“We have two very qualified candidates. Paul has an impressive government background and experience, and Mark has a lot of impressive experience,” Dunn said.

Miller talked about making changes, increasing educational and outreach efforts, putting more documents online, encouraging voter registration and turnout, identifying service gaps and filling them, removing any “barriers” that “disenfranchise voters,” improving efficiency, educating people on probate procedures and wills, and reducing costs while repeatedly noting he saw no need to change the current personnel in the office if he were chosen.

“We all need to have change, change is good, otherwise we stagnate. I’m not suggesting radical change. I commend Jamie Six for the services his office and staff provide. I admire and respect him and his staff,” Miller said. “The staff seems to be proficient and efficient, and there would be no loss of continuity if I’m appointed,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to the upcoming challenges being faced by counties all over the state.”

Both candidates said it was their plan to run for the office in the 2014 election. Whoever is named to the post on Monday would serve effective Aug. 1 until the next election results are certified.

Miller said he would “remove politics from the office and make sure the staff remained apolitical. There is a general distrust of politicians nationwide, and as officials we have to uphold the integrity of the political process.”

“I understand the outgoing clerk traditionally names their replacement, but I would like to think this is not pre-ordained,” Miller told commissioners.

Rhodes said he had no plans to change the office operations and added the office already does outreach and education including voter registration drives at area schools.

“And when we switched over to the Ivotronic voting machines I went out, as did Jamie, to senior centers, the mall, schools, all over to allow voters to look at the new machines and get comfortable with them prior to the election. I have talked to the attorneys in the bar association regarding probate issues. We go out as needed and requested,” Rhodes said.

Miller told the commissioners during the interview he was chosen Democrat of the Year in 2012 and represented the 1st Congressional District at the National Democratic Convention.

Responding to commission questions regarding bipartisanship, Rhodes noted he was appointed chief tax deputy by a former Republican sheriff. “It’s not about political parties here. This is county government and spending tax dollars wisely and providing services.”

Miller noted he would operate the office in a non-partisan manner as well. “Historically I’ve been both a registered Republican back when I was an undergraduate in college, then a Democrat.”

According to Miller’s resume, he has bachelor’s degrees in political science and English from West Virginia University, a master’s degree in public administration and completed graduate coursework in the Public Policy Program. He listed experience including policy outreach director at the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, chief financial officer for West Virginia Capitol Mortgage Inc. in South Charleston and serving as a public policy research analyst in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

According to Miller’s resume, he has computer skills as well as experience and knowledge in real estate and legal research and writing; budget analysis; oral and written legislative summaries; technical writing and also served as a WVU-Parkersburg adjunct political science professor.

Rhodes has a total of 29 years of county government experience. He listed computer skills and training in government accounting, financing and grant management and 14 years of supervisory experience on his resume. Rhodes is the administrative assistant in the clerk’s office. His other job experience includes work with the Complete System Support Inc., information systems coordinator for the county; home confinement officer; Wood County Jail administrator and Wood County correctional officer.

Six announced in late May he would resign effective July 31 to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family. The commissioners, by statute, have the responsibility of naming a temporary replacement. The appointee would serve until the results of the 2014 general election are certified. The position would be open to anyone wishing to file for the 2014 election. The appointee must be of the same political party as Six, a Democrat.

There is also a new option, made possible by recent legislative changes, which would allow the commissioners to appoint a temporary successor to hold the office for up to 30 days until they determine who the appointee will be.

If a quorum of the county commission cannot agree on a replacement for Six within 30 days of the vacancy, the county executive committee of the vacating officials’ political party, in this case the Democratic committee, would select and name a person to fill the vacancy from their party.