MALONE - After 47 years of public service, Franklin County Clerk Wanda D. Murtagh announced Wednesday that she wil retire at the end of the year.
"I have loved the challenge and diversity of my position, and I enjoyed the people I have worked with, and the people I have represented, but it is time to go," Murtagh said in a press release.
Elected in November 1989, Murtagh was the first woman to be elected to a county-wide post in Franklin County.
A native of Essex County, Murtagh's first government positions were in the Essex County Clerk and Deparment of Motor Vehicle offices, where she worked for six years before moving to Malone.
She started work in the Franklin County DMV office in 1972 and worked her way through the Civil Service chain to supervisor in 1975. She remained in that position until her election as clerk in 1989. She has held this position unopposed for the last 23 years.
Murtagh has served as the constitutional officer of the court as the clerk of Supreme and county court, principal recording officer, agent to the state commissioner of motor vehicles and the county records management officer. Murtagh's responsibilities as county clerk include the collection and distribution of all fees to the seven federal and state agencies she represents according to federal and state mandates.
"I have loved working with so many people through the years to assist and guide them through the regulation maze that can be confusing at times," Murtagh said in a press release. "With a little bit of experience and a lot of patience I can say I think I made a difference in people's lives either by providing one of the many services my various offices delivers or by being a good listener to someone with a more serious problem, and attempting to resolve the more difficult issues."
Murtagh cites the staff in her four departments as one of the reasons for her success as county clerk.
"My efficient and courteous staff is the backbone of these four offices," she said in the release. "Respect for my staff as well as the customers have been the key to success. Fairness, honesty and courtesy are what I have built my reputation on."
Murtagh listed some of the accomplishments she is most proud of during her time in office:
-In 1990, as Records Management Law was put into effect, she was appointed records management officer by the county Board of Legislators and worked with State Archives to bring records management policies and procedures into the county for the first time.
-In 1991, she established a satellite DMV office in the southern end of the county in Saranac Lake.
-In 1993, she established the Government Awareness Program with the government classes of seven school districts in the county to provide students with a hands-on look at county government for a day. This now has evolved to be a curriculum course through the schools with a new title "New Visions" under the guidance of Tracey Warren of BOCES and Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr.
-In 1997 Murtagh created the county's Records Center in the old jail, converting two floors of the jail with grant funds to provide storage for 33 county offices' inactive, permanent and archival records. Murtagh, with the assistance of her Records Management staff, has written 19 grants and has been awarded approximately $750,000 in grant funds to assist various departments in the county in microfilming, obtaining equipment, software, receiving numerous awards assisting and seeking ways to save county dollars in the maintenance and preservation of county records.
-In 2002, Murtagh oversaw the computerization of the county clerk's office through the scanning and imaging of records, keeping up with technology to meet the demands of the legal community, banks and residents of the county which now includes access to many of the records in the clerk's office via the Web.
-In 2004 and ongoing, Murtagh began processing New York City dealer transactions in the Franklin County DMV office, generating in excess of $250,000 annually to the county coffers to assist in lowering the tax base to our property owners in the county.
-In 2005, Murtagh established a plastic card system for pistol permits which incorporates a credit-card like permit with digitized photo image, fingerprints and a printed weapons card.
-In 2008, Murtagh was appointed chairperson of the year-long Franklin County Bicentenniel celebration.
"In December, I will be eligible for Social Security and along with my 47 years of service in the state Retirement System as a Tier 1 employee, now is the time to take advantage of these benefits," Murtagh said in the release. "I feel that my time is now to close the door on this chapter of my career, allowing time for my husband and family, travel, golf, the Salute Military Golf Association supporting our wounded warriors in learning the game of golf, enjoying my new puppy and sleeping in."