Three running for Lawrence County recorder

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Most of the time, Lawrence Countians have a choice of either a Democrat or a Republican when selecting county-wide officeholders in the general election. However this year, there are three names of the ballot: Incumbent Sharon Gossett Hager, a Republican, is seeking her second full term. Democrat Susan Sheridan and Independent candidate John Ater are also seeking that post.

Gossett Hager had worked in the recorder’s office 10 years when former recorder Sue Deeds retired. The G.O.P. appointed Hager to fill Deeds’ unexpired term and then she ran for that office in her own right four years ago.

Her tenure in that office is one of her strong points, Gossett Hager said. She knows the ins and outs of the job, the office and the responsibilities of being county recorder. She also has 20 years experience as a bookkeeper in the private sector. She studied accounting at Marshall University and successfully completed leadership training at Tri-State Bible College.

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What makes Sharon Gossett Hager run?

“I know it sounds corny but I truly love serving people,” she said. “I’m a people-person. I want to help people when they come in, try to guide them the best I can. I get a lot of good feedback.”

Even though she has a staff of four to help her, Gossett Hager said she rarely takes time off and is hands-on, preferring to be an active officeholder and not just someone who sits behind a desk.

“I am available and I think that is why people have confidence in me,” she said.

Gossett Hager has served on state committees for the Ohio County Recorders Association. She served two years as Southeast District chair, overseeing a 17-county area. She also served two years on the continuing education committee.

Her proudest accomplishments?

“Being able to stay within my budget,” Gossett Hager replied. When the county commission mandated a 15-percent budget cut earlier this year, Gossett Hager reduced her staff by one person and continued on.

She said she is also proud of a new computer system that stores county documents and yet saves money, space and time.

“It’s been well-received,” she said. “I have been careful in making decisions and try to think of how those decisions will affect other people,” Gossett Hager said.

If voters return her to office, Gossett Hager wants to scan plats of the county’s subdivisions, have them enhanced on added to her computer system.

Gossett Hager is a clerk at First Baptist Church, sings in the choir and has a nursing home ministry. She is also a member of the Ironton Lions Club.

Susan Sheridan is the Democrat seeking the recorder’s post.

An educator, Sheridan said she is proud of her teaching career that has spanned decades and influenced the lives of young people.

“I came to Ironton in 1968 and I have been teaching ever since,” she said.

So why trade the classroom for a second-floor office at the Lawrence County Courthouse?

“I’ve always had an interest in politics and I like to think of myself as a lifelong learner,” she said. “A former student called me with the idea (of running for office) and I talked it over with my two adult children and gave the idea considerable thought.”

Sheridan said she thinks of teaching as a service profession, much like that of a county official.

Her greatest strengths?

“I think of myself as good with people,” Sheridan said. “And I think that’s an asset.”

Another strength is attention to detail. The recorder’s office prepares and keeps property, mortgage and other records and, Sheridan said, “Nobody is better prepared for this than an English teacher with a red ink pen.”

Sheridan said another strength is her habit of thinking carefully before she acts on something. She said if elected, she will evaluate the workings of the office before making any changes.

If elected, Sheridan wants to make sure the office’s Internet site is as up-to-date as possible. She said she also wants to consult area attorneys and real estate agents about what changes they would like to see.

“I want to see if personnel are used in the most efficient way and that includes the recorder,” she said. “I plan to take an active role. I am not one to sit at a desk.”

Sheridan said she most looks forward to “getting to the fine details of what the recorder actually does.”

“I want people to know I am very hard-working and very honest and enthusiastic,” she said.

“Whatever happens, this has been a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “I haven’t been to the fair in years, I haven’t been in the parade in years. But I have met so many people and they have been so nice. This has been very positive experience.”

Independent candidate John Ater described himself as “just an average person” but also as an activist, a protester, and someone who sees flaws in the two-party system. A former member of the G.O.P., he said he was saddened by things going on in the party, such as some good candidates who were discouraged from seeking office because of deals made to benefit a chosen few. He said at times, the G.O.P. central committee would meet and other party members would not be informed of those meetings.

“You’ve got a lot of good candidates, Bob Mayo, Rod Depriest, Harriett Scragg, a lot of good honest people trying to run who are discouraged, especially in the Republican party,” he said.

Ater said he is also saddened that in some races, there is really no race at all, as incumbents run unopposed.

“In particular, judges races,” he said. “They’re decided in the primary.”

Ater said if he is elected, he would like to bring more transparency to county government. He said in the past there have been incidents that were “on the verge of corruption.” He said he is not intimidated by people with power.

Ater also decried what he said is inequity in sentencing criminals, with some getting a light punishment for their crime while others get a harsher sentence.

“When people get caught stealing $28,000, $30,000 from the courthouse and they get no jail time and someone who steals $50 worth of groceries to feed their family gets six months in jail, something is wrong,” Ater said.

Ater said one of his strengths is making people feel comfortable and if he is elected he intends to be a welcoming presence at the courthouse. He described himself as a “champion of the working class people.”

Ater said he is proud of his family and their endeavors and is proud to give them guidance, but adds, “I’m not good at talking about myself.”

Ater has a degree from Ohio University and has worked for two Fortune 500 companies, CSX and Anheuser-Busch. He has handled payroll, purchasing and inventory during his career.