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Carole Gaither: An ideal public servant

Carole Gaither: An ideal public servant
Carole Gaither: An ideal public servant
Carole Gaither

When you think of outstanding Harrison County Court House officeholders the past few years, many names pop into mind: Russell Toler, Ray Hickman, Jesse and Barb Mathes, Paul Saulman, Rena Stepro, Karen Engleman, Pat Wolfe, and others.
Add Carole Gaither to the list.
Gaither was clerk of Harrison County Circuit Court the past four years. She had wanted to serve four more years but was defeated by Sherry Brown by 743 votes in the recent Republican straight-ticket landslide.
In this writer’s opinion, Gaither was the perfect officeholder, a real pro. She was knowledgeable, friendly, polite, efficient, sincere, creative, concerned about Harrison County and its history, and anxious to please. She actually ran two offices, one in the courthouse downtown and another at the Justice Center.
When the courthouse renovation job began, she and other officeholders were presented with a nightmarish situation: Keeping their offices up and running while major construction work was going on all around them ‘ after hours. When you have an office full of computers and files, dust is a real problem. It was so pervasive around the courthouse that when the nitpicky State Board of Accounts people showed up to audit the books, they declared it was too much for them. They’d come back later when the construction was done. The courthouse folks didn’t have it that easy.
The architect had planned a new scheme for the second floor. He wanted the second floor foyer outside the clerk, auditor, treasurer and recorder’s offices to be in line with the double-door entryway to the commissioners’ room downstairs and the circuit courtroom upstairs. To have two big swinging doors lead to the auditor and clerk’s offices was a swell idea and no doubt great aesthetically, but Gaither thought it was impractical and a waste of valuable space. She shared her plan with Auditor Pat Wolfe, who agreed that Gaither had a better idea. Her plan was accepted, and both officeholders wound up with more space, and the handsome wood panel entryway on the second floor fits right in and looks very nice.
Something else that some people may not realize is that the clerk of the court is also secretary of the county election board. Gaither was responsible for preparing for and running four elections. If anything went wrong, she got the blame. She reorganized and improved the training process for all the polling officials, Wolfe said.
Gaither gives a lot of credit to the nine people on her staff. They were organized and cross-trained. They could do each other’s job balancing books and doing the deposits and reconciliations and trust work, so when someone was absent, the work got done without missing a beat.
Gaither brought something else to her job, her husband Michael, whom she married 45 years ago. He supported her 100 percent and was present with her at all the Democrat Party functions ‘ meetings, floatbuilding sessions, parades, everything. ‘They were just always there,’ Wolfe said. Mike and Helen Reas spent hundreds of hours sorting through old county files that had laid practically undisturbed in the courthouse vaults for years. Much of it is now in warehouse storage, no doubt well-organized.
Gaither, who is 64, had wanted to serve four more years and thought she would. As Wolfe notes, Gaither is a starter and a finisher. It must have been hard to be in charge of the election tabulation process that night in the courthouse and watch her own race go down the drain. It hurt, but she did it ‘with such grace,’ said Wolfe. Gaither would like to run for office again, but not clerk or auditor. She’s not ready to stay at home just yet; she has lots more to contribute. We thank her for all her great work.