Harper, Compton vie for Mercer clerk's office

October 30, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - When Mercer County voters go to the polls Tuesday, they will have only one local contested race for which they can cast a vote.

Democrat Bruce Harper and Republican Ronnie Compton both want to replace veteran Mercer County Clerk Larry Short.

Short resigned from the office in July, stating his family health insurance purchased through the county was too expensive and he could get it less expensively through retirement. Short has been advising Compton in his race for the job.

Harper was appointed interim clerk by the late Mercer County Judge-Executive Charlie McGinnis soon after Short announced his intention to retire. For his part, Harper has had the aid of former clerk Ralph Morris, who works in the office about twice a week, trying to get the records caught up.

Compton said he has long experience in licensing and registering vehicles, a task he says takes up 80 percent of the work in the clerk's office. He is the used car manager at Spirit Chevrolet-Buick. He has worked for the dealership for 22 years.


Harper worked for Wilkinson Farms for about 27 years and then served in the governor's office for agriculture policy for 15 months before he was named to the clerk's job. One of the things Harper has begun, keeping the clerk's office open until 6 p.m. on Mondays, would be changed by Compton.

Compton said he would change the day to Friday after most people get paid.

Harper said he checked with other clerks and found people had other plans for Friday night, including shopping, going to ball games, and going out to dinner. He said Boyle County tried Friday nights but got little traffic and changed to Monday.

Harper began longer hours on Mondays after Labor Day. "When I first got here, I noticed people were having a hard time getting here before the office closed," he said. Some people said they had had to take off work early or for half a day in order to do business with the office.

Compton said he wants Mercer County's clerk's office to be the friendliest in the state.

Harper said he wants the office to be the best and he has some plans to make it so. To keep the deeds, mortgages and other vital documents up to date, Harper wants them to be recorded and filed when they are brought to the office.

"All of those documents are so date- and time-sensitive, and it's a very serious business and we need to approach it in that manner. Rather than have them moved from stack to stack, they need to be filed at that time."

Harper said the office is in process of setting up a Web page for the office in which people can do business with the office without having to go to the office. If a vehicle owner wants to pay for registration of a vehicle over the Internet, the office can then mail the documents back to the owner. He also hopes that by the beginning of the year or shortly thereafter, the office will be able to take payment through credit or debit cards.

"I want you to feel comfortable when you're in that place," Compton said this week, and when asked if he was going to get rid of the staff, he answered, "Absolutely not. I've called each one of them and assured them their job is OK." He also said he has no plans to hire Short.

About the staff, Harper said, "We've got a great group of people here, and we're very committed to serve the people of Mercer County and we'd like to be able to do so."

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