People: Morris can once again be found at Mercer clerk's office

October 27, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY

People who have had business with the Mercer County clerk over the last 15 years may have gotten a sense of deja vu in the last three months or so.

Ralph Morris has returned to the clerk's office almost 14 years after he retired from the office. He is not there as the clerk but as an experienced helper to the newly appointed clerk.

When Bruce Harper was named to replace Larry Short who resigned just six months into his fourth term, Harper called Morris.

"He said he needed help getting caught up," Morris said last week. "They were behind with recording. This is something I was familiar with." So he returned to the job July 22.


An important part of the clerk's job is being custodian of the county's records. Documents are added daily to the collection that contains some of the oldest documents in Kentucky. Deeds, mortgages, marriage licenses, records of Fiscal Court meetings and plats of land divisions are among those kept in a vault in the Mercer County Courthouse Annex.

It is those records with which Morris feels most at home and where he can help Harper.

Vehicle licensing and elections are the tasks dealt with in the office across the hall of the annex. Morris said those tasks have been computerized since he left office and he is inexperienced in the methods used.

Morris worked in the clerk's office for 31 years and was clerk for 20 of those years. He said he decided to retire, in part, because the office in the Mercer County Courthouse was so crowded that it made working very difficult. He made his decision before the room in the annex across Main Street became available. Nevertheless, he went ahead with plans to leave.

"I'd made up my mind," he said. "I started when I was 31 years old, I worked 31 years and that made me 62 years old." He answered Harper's call for help, but it's not a charity. "I wouldn't do it for nothing."

Morris works about two days a week in the clerk's office. He often can be found on a golf course if he's not working for Harper.

Harper will soon face one of the most difficult jobs that fall to a county clerk - election time. "You're always afraid of something going wrong," Morris said.

Morris said he has advised Harper on the best way to learn the job: "Learn from the staff. They've been here a long time. When I started, that's what I did."

Morris knows the abilities of four deputy clerks, Gayle Johnson, JoEllen Horn, Marsha Noel and Frances Stine. He hired all four of them during his tenure as clerk.

Morris' work in the clerk's office will soon end. He said the records are almost caught up and he should be finished shortly after the election next month, so he can devote more time to retirement and golf.

"I'm not looking for a job."

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