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Fresh perspective challenges experience

October 21, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Circuit Clerk Dennis J. Weaver wants to keep the job he has held for five terms by continuing to set the bar for state courts on efficiency, while his opponent, Ernest E. Pletcher, wants to bring a fresh perspective to the role and look into new technology for the courthouse.

Weaver, 53, a Democrat, and Pletcher, 63, a Republican, will vie for the Circuit clerk job in the Nov. 7 general election.

Weaver, of 318 N. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, was elected in 1986 to his first term after serving 13 years as deputy clerk, he said. This is the first time since his first election that he has been opposed.

Pletcher, of 16728 Tammany Manor Road in Williamsport, is a retired Maryland State Police sergeant and pastor of Mercersburg (Pa.) First Church of God. Pletcher said he wanted to run for clerk, in part, because "it's important that the citizens of Washington County have a choice."

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Weaver said his job deals not only with managing the clerk's office, but with adapting to changes required by the Maryland Judiciary. The last four state audits of the clerk's office were returned without comment, he said. The Washington County Courthouse "is always at or near the top" of state rankings for efficiency, he said.

"I can't imagine coming in and learning the details of what we do," he said.

"I could never do better than 33 years of service," Pletcher said before adding, "Give me a year and I will do a good job."

Pletcher said he is familiar with state law through his work with state police, and is familiar with the office's ceremonial duties, such as conducting marriages, through his work as a pastor. As a homeowner, Pletcher said he understands that the office has a record of deeds and land records.

"Just as there is a diversification of duties in the office, I have a background that's diversified," he said.

Pletcher wants to update security, computers and technology at the courthouse. He said he wants to look into adding closed circuit television capabilities at the courthouse, which he said would reduce the frequency with which inmates go to the court for hearings, thus improving overall safety.

Weaver said there are no closed circuit television systems at Circuit Court because the Maryland Judiciary has decided against it. He also said that technology used at the courthouse is the same technology used in Circuit Courts across the state, a decision also made by the Maryland Judiciary to give the systems consistency.

"We have no direct control over that," Weaver said.

Weaver, who took a job at Circuit Court when he was 19 years old, said he is the 12th clerk in the position's 230-year history in the county.

"Part of that shows the importance to the voters of the experience in this job," he said.

Weaver has become "a leader among clerks in the state," serving as Chair of the Conference of Circuit Court Clerks, an advisory body to Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, head of the Maryland Judiciary.

"I still love my job," Weaver said. "I want to keep it until I'm ready to go out on my own terms."

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