Clark Barnes set to become Senate Clerk

State Senator Clark Barnes
State Senator Clark Barnes

Santa’s not the only one making a list this Christmas season.

The State Senate District 11 Republican Executive Committee is making a list of people interested in replacing State Senator Clark Barnes. Barnes is expected to become the Clerk of the Senate on January 14, when the Legislature opens its 2015 session. A Senate Republican caucus already nominated Barnes for the position.

The list of potential replacements has grown to eight since Barnes announced his intentions last week. The Executive Committee will select three candidates and forward the names to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who will appoint one of the recommended candidates. The appointee will serve until the 2016 election cycle.

Republicans will have a majority in the State Senate, thanks to State Senator Daniel Hall’s defection to the GOP following the November election. Discussions about Barnes’ role in the Senate began immediately after Republicans learned they would hold the majority.

“We started planning,” said Barnes. “As part of that planning meeting, one of the issues that I brought up and gave a pretty strong sermon on was that we needed to depart from the old standard of the Democratic leadership, which just awarded the Clerk’s position to one of the senior Democrats, without any desire of that individual of actually doing the job of the Clerk.

“That we needed to change the perception and that there were certain requirements of the Clerk, since the Clerk handles all the fiscal matters of the Senate, the IT – technology, the flow of information between the Houses and the Governor, all personnel matters, et cetera – that we needed a Clerk who was truly capable of being an administrator and not leaving that to a hired assistant, as has been done in the past.”

Barnes faced a difficult choice in the weeks following the initial strategy session.

“That night, they offered me the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, which – I don’t like to use the word ‘powerful’ – but it is a very powerful position in the Senate,” he said. “And I accepted it that evening. However, 10 days later, after spending several days at the Capitol in this transition process, I discovered how important in the transition, with all the folks that would be leaving and all the new folks that were coming in, that there would be very few people on the elected side who really knew how the bureaucracy of the Senate works.

“So, after 10 days, it was decided, that based on the requirements that I had given 10 days earlier, that I was the one who was qualified to help us make that transition. So, a few days later, I accepted that nod from leadership that I would run for that position. The majority caucus has now met and they have elected me as their Clerk.”

Barnes will have to resign his Senate seat if elected Clerk by the full Senate on January 14, as expected. Jeremy Bauserman, a member of the District 11 Republican Executive Committee, reported that the Committee had received resumés from seven applicants: Tate Summerfield, of Randolph County; Delegate Allen Evans, of Grant County; and four Nicholas County residents: Pete Sigler, Jr., Duane Borchers, Steve Ferguson and Greg Boso.

The 11th Senate District includes Pocahontas, Randolph, Nicholas, Webster, Upshur and Pendleton counties and part of Grant County. Residents of the district who would like to be considered for the appointment can submit their information to Benjean Rapp, 213 Mayfair Lane, Summersville,WV 26651, or email their information to benjeanrapp@gmail.com. For more information, interested persons can contact Bauserman by emailing jeremybaus@frontiernet.net or by calling 304-456-4915.

Barnes discussed some of the goals he plans to pursue as Clerk of the Senate

“First of all, I’ll be taking a primary role in parliamentary procedure,” he said. “Because of the number of new senators we have coming in, the new folks, who have never even been part of the legislative process, will need to assume some of the 16 Senate committee chairs. So, it’s going to be very important for me to be – I will have to use the word ‘coach’ – to be there and ensure that they’re given proper instructions on how to run a committee, how the procedures work and ensure that things are done correctly and smoothly.

“Secondly, the fiscal operations of the Senate have been run rather loosely in the past. I plan on bringing all of that into my office, to where I know specifically where every dollar is going; that every check that is written is signed by me, not stamped by someone with my signature. I’ll be able to review all of the contracts, not only from purchasing, but we have an awful lot of contracts for per diem employees that have to be reviewed.

“We live in a technical age. It was just recently that the Senate actually went to computer technology on the floor of the body. There are some improvements that need to be made and some training that needs to be done to ensure that we can maintain a paperless operation and that it be very visible to the public.”

Barnes believes technology can increase public participation in the legislative process.

“One of the frustrating things for me has been, we vote on something based on what we know at the time we vote on it,” he said. “Then, I come back home and the people say, ‘what in the world did you do that for?’ You realize that there are people out there who had a vested interest or a technical knowledge of the issue, that you’re making a decision on, who never gave you input. And, by advancing into a better technological system, I think it gives us the opportunity to let the public see what we’re doing and actually give input into the process. That’s what’s been missing in the past.”

“We have a very good system, already, that actually puts bills out there for people,” Barnes added. “We just need to market it to the people and make it easy for them to use, so they can be a part of the process.”

On the first day of its session, the Senate will vote for four positions – the President, Clerk, Sergeant of Arms and door keeper. The Clerk of the Senate is a year-round, full-time job.

Barnes grew up in Clarksburg and Paden City. He enlisted in the Army in 1973 served in the Engineer Corps until 1976. He is the president of Barnes and Associates, Inc., a medical supply company in Elkins. He was first elected to the Senate in 2004, when he defeated incumbent Mike Ross, and was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.

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