By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ashtabula County Fair provided the venue for Carol Mead to find her career, but it wasn’t in agriculture.
Mead, who retired last week as the county’s clerk of courts, was working for the Jefferson Local Schools Board of Education when Robert Hillyer, who was clerk of courts, saw her at the fair and told her to “come into my office, I might have a job for you.”
That was 42 years ago. Hillyer hired Mead for a filing clerk position; Doris Campbell, deputy clerk, trained her.
“She was a fast learner,” said Campbell, who retired 32 years ago. “She became the chief deputy when I retired.”
Campbell was among the dozens of well-wishers who came to Mead’s retirement party at the courthouse Friday afternoon. After 41 years of service to the office, including 21 as the elected official, Mead retired as of Dec. 28.
Mead encouraged her deputy clerk, Tami Pentek, to run for the office. Pentek won and seamlessly took over the reins upon Mead’s retirement. Mead hired Pentek in 1995.
“She’s been my mentor,” Pentek said of Mead. “My mentor and my best friend.”
Mead served under three clerks of courts — Hillyer, Peter Belding and Ed Meaney. It was Meaney who encouraged her to run for the office. She ran opposed on her first and third attempts and had three runs unopposed.
She used the retirement party as an occasion to reminisce about the many changes that occurred in the office during her four decades there. In 1991, the newly elected Mead replaced the hand- and type-written docket sheets with a computerized system that created a consolidated base accessible by the common pleas courts and lower Eastern and Western County courts. That technology gave way to Court View, which allows public access to the docket online.
On the auto title side of her office, Mead recalls a time when vehicle titles had to be manually “typed up.” She partnered with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to implement a computerized auto titling system.
“Today, the citizens of Ashtabula County and all of the car dealers enjoy a very modern and efficient title department that is open on Saturday mornings,” Mead said.
The title department processes about 40,000 title-related documents annually.
Mead also relocated the auto title department from a small office in the courthouse to a one-stop shop at the corner of Walnut and North Chestnut streets.
She said storage space has always been an issue for the department. After relocating the title department out of the courthouse, Mead used that space for a space-saving electric file-storage system.
The legal side of her office processes hundreds of documents a day. Mead said that both criminal and civil cases, as well as liens, court of appeals and grand jury documents flow through her office.
Mead said she will miss the opportunity to help people, which is, in Mead’s opinion, the most rewarding part of the clerk’s job. She has fond memories of the people who have worked in the office over the years; many of those stopped by Friday to wish her well.
Her plans include spending time with nieces and nephews who live in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. Mead said she plans to stay active in the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association, her church, the Finnish American Heritage Association and the Democratic Party.