WOI: Mary Clair

Webster County Treasurer Mary Clair is one of only three women in county government, but she says when it’s not an election year, her office just feels like, well, an office.

As movers and shakers go, Webster County Treasurer Mary Clair is a friendly, diminutive sort. She can often be seen moving around the courthouse with papers in hand, looking for some signature or another, or heading off to give timely info to a fellow lawmaker.

She is one of the three women in the courthouse who are elected officials, and when she leaves, there will be only two. That’s too bad, according to Clair, because diverse perspectives are important when making decisions for the county.

“We have an elected officials meeting on the third Tuesday, and we’re respected,” she said of she and her woman colleagues. “Our opinions are valued. When we have an opinion, they’re listening. I’ve had that respect all along,” she said.

Added Clair, “Men and women think differently. Any kind of situation that comes up, any project the county is going to take on, a woman could bring to the table things men might not even think about.”

And adding to Clair’s value is her excellent record of audits. “The auditor reports have always been good,” she said. “I’ve felt very proud of the fact that I’ve had several good audits.” A private audit is conducted every two years, and a state audit happens every four years.

“I feel like I’ve done what I was supposed to do as far as keeping track of the funds of the county,” she said.

Clair got her start in the private sector, working as a bookkeeper for York Casket Company. She worked there for 25 years, but then, in 2006, the company announced that it was moving its operation to Mexico.

Around the same time, the experienced bookkeeper was approached to solve a problem in Webster County government: The recently elected Treasurer could not be bonded. As she waved goodbye to her casket company gig, she said hello to a new life in public service.

“The timing was perfect,” Clair reflected.

Clair took office on March 1, 2007, for a two-year appointment, but she was required to run for the unexpired term in 2008. She was relieved in that first election to be unopposed. In the 2010 election, she did have an opponent, and it was someone she knew well. It was an uncomfortable welcome to the world of politics, but Clair won that race with 72 percent of the vote.

In September, Clair turned 67, and she didn’t really want to run for office again, perhaps to leave in the middle of the term. So she sat things out, and she watched as a hotly contested race for her seat was decided in the Republican primary, with Todd Hungerford set to take over where Clair has left off.

The job doesn’t feel political, according to Clair. “Except for every four years, it just feels like a job,” she said. “Every four years, it’s like, oh, I’ve got to apply for my job again.”

Added Clair, “I don’t feel like a politician. I feel like I’m working for Webster County and doing the best I can for all of the constituents out there.”

There are things she won’t miss, though — like remembering all of her passwords and some other pervasive parts of office life.

Clair added that she has really liked her time in office. “I’ve totally enjoyed it, and I’m proud of the job I’ve done,” she said.

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