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County clerk’s office has many urgent needs

October 21, 2018 GMT

This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the West Virginia general election on Nov. 6.

In January of this year, I decided to file and run for Cabell County Clerk. I am new to politics, but for the last five years I have worked for an IT software company that designs software exclusively for county clerks. My territory encompasses two full states: West Virginia and Kentucky.

I have worked side by side with many county clerks, helping to improve accessibility to public records and a more user-friendly probate process for the citizens of each county.

I have also been a “student” of some of the best and most successful practices used in other counties. I have attended training seminars provided to county clerks at state conferences. Having done this, I have discovered many new and exciting work practices and services. Many are free for Cabell County to use.

Three things are headed our way in the next year or two. A direct link to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in Charleston with each county clerk’s office for quicker accessibility to vital statistics. Also, energy company (natural gas) abstractors (land record title searchers) are going to be visiting our county. And a new e-recording process is being considered in West Virginia. Are we prepared?

Customer service is also an issue. Cabell County is one of the larger centers of population in West Virginia. We are home to the second largest city and the second largest university in the state. Are we providing top-notch customer service to our citizens?

Along with accessibility to public records, security also plays a role. Personal data (Social Security numbers and birth dates) should be guarded. A little over a year ago, personal data for many of Cabell County’s employees became compromised (stolen) through internet sources. The budgetary/payroll software was hacked and infected with crypto locker ransom ware. Safeguards were not in place. This can happen again with other software programs, on a much larger scale, unless it is addressed immediately. This is urgent.

Lastly is the budget issue facing Cabell County. The county clerk’s office is facing a 10 percent reduction in its operating budget. Most if not all of this can be resolved by renegotiating rates with vendors and suppliers that the office does business with. These suppliers will negotiate. I have been involved with this in the coal-producing counties. When coal severance tax dropped off, so did the ability of many counties to maintain their current budgets. Budgets were reduced, so prices paid for everyday goods and services were renegotiated to accommodate the available funds. It works.

I want to share the best ideas from other counties with Cabell County. We deserve the best. Please help that happen. I would appreciate your vote and support. Thank you. Your friend and neighbor, Joe Powers.

Joe Powers, a resident of Huntington, is a Republican candidate for Cabell County clerk.