MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A retired state tax department appraiser was sworn in Thursday afternoon as the county's new assessor after being appointed hours earlier by Berkeley County Council.
The county council voted unanimously in its regular meeting Thursday morning to appoint 60-year-old Martinsburg-area resident Gearl G. Raynes to complete the unexpired term of Patricia A. "Patsy" Kilmer.
Kilmer resigned last month, saying she unknowingly violated the state Ethics Act when hiring members of her family to work in the elected office.
Kilmer, who initially was appointed to the office, was elected in 2010 to complete the unexpired term of the late Preston B. Gooden, who died in February 2009, only a few months after being re-elected to a second, four-year term.
That term ends Dec. 31, 2012, and Raynes said he would not seek election next year. The annual salary for Berkeley County's assessor is $64,368, excluding a percentage of dog tax revenue, which Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond said Thursday varies from year to year.
"As far as politics are concerned, I've just never been all that interested in politics and I don't think my personality is suited to running for office," Raynes said in an interview after he was sworn into office by Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. at the historic county courthouse.
"If I were to run and would get elected, I'd be 65 (before the term ends) and I don't want to be working when I'm 65," he said.
Raynes said the job presented an opportunity to give something back to the county.
Saying it wasn't his intention to reinvent the wheel, Raynes said he thinks the Berkeley County assessor's office runs very well "as is."
"Having worked in assessor's offices for the past 30 years in different areas of the state, if there's something I feel we can do better based on what I've seen in other areas, we'll do it, but again don't expect wholesale changes."
Raynes was chosen over two other candidates — Robert L. Lowe II and David L. Woods — who also asked to be considered for the job.
County Council president William L. "Bill" Stubblefield noted that the county Republican Party requested that the person appointed to complete the term indicate they had no intention of running for a four-year term and be a long-standing member of the party.
Stubblefield said all three candidates who applied for the interim position met those qualifications.
Raynes has been a lifelong Republican, except for "a brief stint" when he change his registration in order to vote for a Democratic friend who was running for an elected office.
As of Thursday, Republican Richard Dennis and Democrat Shawn Conaughty of Martinsburg, have filed pre-candidacy papers for the assessor position.
The actual candidacy filing period for the 2012 election for the office of assessor and several other county and state elected offices begins Jan. 9 and continues until midnight Jan. 28, according to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office. The filing period for the City of Martinsburg's municipal election next year is Feb. 1 to Feb. 28, according to city code.
More information about the candidacy requirements for county and state offices is on the Secretary of State's website at www.sos.wv.gov/ and information about City of Martinsburg municipal election is on the Internet at www.cityofmartinsburg.org.