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W.Va. clerk's 56 years of public service recognized

June 13, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. hugs his friend MaryAnn Ferro Thursday during a ceremony in which Small was recognized for his long service to the county. A new flagpole in front of the downtown courthouse is dedicated to him.
By Kevin G. Gillbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County’s longest serving elected office holder was honored for 56 years of dedicated public service on Thursday.

More than 100 people, including elected officials as well as community and business leaders, gathered to recognize John W. Small Jr., the 79-year-old Berkeley County Clerk, for decades of public service.

“I’m very humbled,” Small said about the recognition.

A flag and flag pole, erected in front of the historic courthouse, were dedicated in his honor Thursday
Martinsburg business owner MaryAnn Ferro and Berkeley County Council member Jim Whitacre purchased the flag and flag pole.

“It was just kind of an aggravation to me every time I walked down here, and I didn’t have a flag in front of my courthouse,” said Ferro.

Small is like a symbol of the courthouse, she said.

“I like serving the public. I’ve always enjoyed helping others,” Small said. “I’ve always wanted to treat the public like I wanted to be treated myself.

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On Jan. 2, 1957, Small was named Chief Deputy County Clerk. In September 1971, he was appointed county clerk after Eugene C. Dunham passed away. Elected in 1972 to complete Dunham’s unexpired six-year term, Small has served as county clerk ever since.

Small most recently won re-election in 2010. His current term will expire in 2016.

But he has no plans to retire.

“I don’t know what I’d do without the public,” he said.

Sen. John Unger was one of many who spoke during Small’s ceremony.

He approaches his public service like it was a small community even though Berkeley County has grown quite a bit, said Unger, D-Berkeley-Jefferson.

“There have been times when a couple didn’t have two dimes to rub together and they wanted to get a marriage license,” Unger said. “John would pull in his pocket and get some money and say, ‘Go ahead and get a license.’”

It wasn’t uncommon for him to hand-deliver something from the courthouse so people didn’t have to run to the courthouse if they were elderly or disabled, Unger said.

“You don’t see that too much these days,” he said.

Unger also presented Small with the Distinguished West Virginian Award on behalf of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Small’s wife of six years, Julia Small also has seen her husband go above and beyond the call of duty.

“There is never a holiday. There has never been a Christmas or a Fourth of July or a time where he didn’t get a call where someone didn’t forget a birth certificate that they couldn’t go on a cruise,” she said.

“In fact one of the local judges wanted to get married and forgot his marriage certificate and John came down and opened up the courthouse and got a marriage certificate so he could get married on Saturday,” Julia Small said.

He has a passion for people, she said.

She remembered the time when during a horrible snowstorm, her husband got a call from a man at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg.

“He was dying and wanted to marry his longtime girlfriend before he passed,” she said.

“We went down through the snow. John got a minister to meet us down there and he got them married. It’s like that every day of his life,” she said.

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