The County Commissioners Court will appoint an interim County Clerk, probably at its regularly-scheduled Aug. 15 meeting, but possibly as early as next week during a potential special meeting at which the forthcoming county budget would also be discussed, County Judge Dean Fowler said Wednesday. For now, Chief Deputy Clerk Kaye Cain, who has worked in the office for more than 30 years, will be in charge of it.
Ms. Tucker had been under fire from some county officials—although not Judge Parish—after a nearly $1 million shortfall in county funds surfaced earlier this year. Ms. Tucker and Fowler essentially blamed each other for the deficit, and Ms. Tucker defended her performance in a phone interview Tuesday with The Mirror.
Her resignation and Mrs. Lee’s appointment were announced in a brief press release from Judge Parish on Tuesday. The judge, who expressed regret over Ms. Tucker’s departure, swore in Mrs. Lee that day.
Mrs. Lee, 33, has been County Clerk for the past 2 1/2 years and had recently announced she planned to seek re-election in 2014. Before her election in 2010, she was a clerk for Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch’s office in Gladewater.
She and her husband, J.D. Lee, have two sons, Jaxon, 7, and Dylan, 5.
The new auditor told The Mirror Tuesday night she took the post because “I have an accounting degree” from the University of Texas at Tyler, and accounting is her foremost interest. “I’m also working on my master’s (degree) in Public Administration” at that university, she noted.
She additionally expressed appreciation to voters for electing her County Clerk.
In the press release, Judge Parish noted Mrs. Lee’s degree in accounting, and called her “highly qualified” to be auditor. The judge said the new auditor “will be a great asset to Upshur County taxpayers.”
The appointment also won praise from all five members of the Commissioners Court.
“I am really excited about Brandy Lee (being named),” Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said Tuesday.
“She is efficient and she is not afraid of anybody. . . She’s a bulldog,” said Berka, who was among Ms. Tucker’s critics.
“I think that Brandy will be a fine County Auditor,” Fowler said.
On Wednesday, Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry, Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and Pct. 4 Mike Spencer also lauded the appointment.
“I think Brandy will do a really good job,” said Mrs. Gentry, adding that Mrs. Lee’s accounting degree will be an asset to the county.
“She is a very smart cookie,” the Pct. 1 Commissioner said. “And I wish Janice well.”
Said Hefner, “I’m pleased. Brandy’s done us a really good job. . . I’m confident she will do a good job as county auditor.”
He also predicted her appointment will greatly benefit taxpayers.
Spencer, who had been among Ms. Tucker’s critics, said, “I think the District Judge made a wise choice. . . It’s a step moving forward for the county with our financial situation.”
In the news release, Judge Parish said, “I want to publicly thank Ms. Tucker for the work she has done for the County. I hate to see her leave and wish her the very best.”
Ms. Tucker had defended herself from criticism by Fowler when he brought the deficit to public light last spring. She had also been at odds with Sheriff Anthony Betterton over matters involving his office.
The projected deficit forced the commissioners court to slice the county’s budget by nearly $1 million in mid-fiscal year in order to avoid the shortfall.
Berka speculated Thursday Ms. Tucker resigned because “there was enough pressure put on her” over the deficit, and “she thought it best to just go on down the road.”
Ms. Tucker, who had become auditor in January 2010, said that “I think that (my resignation) probably is the best thing for myself and the county.”
“I lay blame on no one” for her decision, she added. When told of Berka’s statement about her, she declined further comment on why she stepped down.
“I did an excellent job under the circumstances,” asserted Ms. Tucker, who said she has not taken a new job. “I don’t have anything to do with the county deficit,” she added, saying an auditor has no role in that.
Ms. Tucker also said Mrs. Lee was an “excellent” choice to succeed her, and will ‘be able to take up where I left off. . . She would have been my choice, too.”