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County clerk incumbent to face political newcomer

October 29, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Clerk John Small has worked in the office for 41 years, making him one of the county's longest-serving public officials.

Small, 57, started in 1957 as a deputy clerk under Eugene Dunham. He was appointed clerk in 1971 to fill out an unexpired term, and ran on his own in 1972 for a shortened two-year term. In 1976, he won his first full six-year term.

He's won re-election ever since and has had an opponent every election except in 1980.

Small, a Republican, is running for his fifth term. His opponent is Democrat Marsha Kelley, 29, purchasing agent for the county.

Kelley was hired by Small as a part-time clerk in his office six years ago.

Small is running on his long record of service and Kelley wants to bring a surge of fresh new blood to the office, she said.

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"John's been there 41 years. That's to his credit, but you have to say when enough's enough. I'm not much of a politician, but I know I can do that job," Kelley said. "I will stay current with the regulations and run an organized, efficient office," she said.

Kelley grew up in Tomahawk, W.Va., graduated from Hedgesville High School and is married to Michael L. Kelley.

She considers her jump into politics as a quantum leap. "It isn't something I thought I'd do, but my philosophy is that I can't sit back and complain about something that I'm not going to try to fix," she said.

And she thinks a lot needs to be fixed in the clerk's office.

"First of all, I would clean up the office from the standpoint of organization and efficiency. It's just now being computerized. I would have done that a long time ago," she said.

Kelley said she would put the county's records online in a local computer network for use at a fee by the public and attorneys who regularly peruse the county's land records. She said she would start by computerizing new records, then scan old ones into the system.

"It would be a long-range project," she said.

She also said she would eliminate the chief clerk's job and use that salary to beef up those of other workers.

Small said he's running again because he wants to finish the computerization of the office and because he likes serving the public.

"I don't know what she (Kelley) means by disorganization and inefficiency. I've never had many complaints and I always get the work out," Small said.

"I need more space for the office. We have to store records in cardboard boxes and on top of files. I can't get the space or money from the county commissioners to operate, he said.

"I've been asking for six years for money to computerize this office. Money I was supposed to get went to new buildings and to keep inmates in jail," he said.

Thirty-three of West Virginia's 55 counties have computerized clerk's offices, he said

Computers are coming to his office in three phases, with the first units already in place and training under way, Small said.

Small said he goes out of his way to serve the public.

"They don't get a runaround. I help them. I even take papers to hospitals and nursing homes that people need to sign," he said.

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