Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt announced Monday morning she will step down from her position in order to spend more time with her family.
Hitt has been the county clerk for seven years. She served as chief deputy clerk prior to first being appointed interim clerk, taking that position in January 2012 when her predecessor Barbara Nielsen retired. Later in 2012 Hitt won her first election to the clerk’s office.
Hitt said in an interview Monday morning she wants the citizens of Douglas County to know how much she appreciated being able to serve them.
“I’ve so enjoyed being the clerk, and I so appreciate the support that I’ve had from the community,” she said. “So this is a really, really tough decision to make.”
Hitt requested the Douglas County Board of Commissioners appoint Chief Deputy Clerk Rosemarie Wess to fill the position until the 2020 election.
The commissioners rejected that suggestion, instead voting at their Monday work session to open the interim clerk position up with applications and candidate interviews. They cited a need for transparency in the appointment process and said Wess could apply for the post.
While Hitt said she understands the commissioners’ desire for transparency, she said she thought promoting Wess directly would provide a smoother transition. She said Wess would require no training since she’s already familiar with local voters and with the county’s election system.
And she said 2020 is a big election year, making that experience all the more valuable.
“I am extremely disappointed the commissioners did not accept my recommendation,” Hitt said.
Freeman said Monday it wouldn’t be fair to the public to pick an interim clerk through an internal promotion behind closed doors.
“I just don’t think that would be right. I don’t think that would be the right process,” he said.
He said the procedure the commissioners approved Monday would be similar to that used to appoint a temporary replacement for former commissioner Gary Leif after he stepped down to take a position in the Oregon legislature.
Freeman said Wess could end up being the best-qualified candidate and it’s possible she might wind up being selected for the position, but it’s important for the commissioners to make the choice through a public process that includes taking applications and conducting public interviews.
It has also been a rough year for Hitt on a personal level.
Her husband, Marshall Hitt, died in February after he was hit by a falling tree during the major snowstorm in Douglas County that month.
She said she couldn’t have made it through the recent months without her staff, who she called amazing.
“They just know what to do. They’ve filled in the gaps in my absence. There were days when I could work a little while, and then I couldn’t work anymore and they just took over. They’re a great team, and they work really well together,” she said.
Hitt said she wants to spend more time with her mother, who will turn 98 this week, and with her 10 grandchildren.
“Life is too short, and I need to do some more things with my family,” Hitt said.
Hitt said she’s looking forward to seeing what else life brings.
“I know I want to make a lot of memories with my grandkids, but I know I’m not finished. I’m not going to just sit back in my rocking chair. There’s too many life opportunities out there,” she said.