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Blevins retiring as Fayette County clerk

Longtime Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins is retiring at the end of the year, but another Don Blevins might be appointed to replace him.

Don Blevins, 71, who has been the county clerk for 27 years, announced his retirement Wednesday. His last day will be Jan. 1.

His son, Urban County Councilman Don Blevins Jr., is interested in replacing his father as clerk.

Councilman Blevins has already notified Fayette County Judge-Executive Sandra Varellas of his interest to replace his father.

Varellas will appoint someone to serve out the remainder of clerk Blevins' term, which expires Jan. 3, 2011. The next election for county clerk will be in November of 2010.

Councilman Blevins, 46, said Varellas has asked for a résumé, references and an interview. Varellas plans to get the same information from everyone interested in the post, he said.

The clerk position "is a good way for me to continue my public service," Councilman Blevins said. "I don't just want to work for any old thing. I want to contribute back to the community I was born in. So here's a way I can bring my experience to bear."

The county clerk is responsible for recording land records, including deeds and mortgages, and issuing marriage licenses, motor vehicle registrations and license tags. The clerk also heads the local election commission, which is responsible for administering and certifying elections.

The clerk's job matches his career history really well, Blevins Jr. said. "I've done management of highly technology enabled organizations, so I'm a good match."

Also, as the son of the county clerk with the same name, people have accidentally called him with clerk questions for his father, Blevins Jr. said. "So I've been sort of a deputy clerk for a while ... If I know the answer, I'd tell them. If not, I send them my dad's way."

Blevins Sr. said he had intended to complete his term, but decided to retire for financial reasons because of upcoming changes to the state pension system. Some lucrative aspects of the pension system expire at the end of the year.

"I have to protect my situation as it relates to my pension," he said. "They did what they had to do in Frankfort. I'm not in any way being critical, but when they change things, it affects individuals differently."

County clerks across the state respect Blevins and will miss him, said Toni Watson, the Caldwell County Clerk and immediate past president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association.

"He's been a tremendous help to every clerk in the state," Watson said. "He just has a knowledge of the clerk's office, of land recordings, of motor vehicle business, of elections. It's just going to be a tremendous loss to all clerks. I hate to see him go."

One of Blevins' greatest contributions to clerks across the state is "Don's Bible," a handbook detailing the intricacies of recording land records, Watson said.

Blevins' office created and updates the handbook, which is distributed by the clerks association.

"Clerk Blevins' contributions to Fayette County, the Commonwealth, and to our nation are too numerous to mention, but his recognition for those efforts is much deserved," Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the state's chief election official, said in a statement. "Kentucky and the nation have lost a giant in the world of elections and county administrations that may never be fully replaced."

Mayor Jim Newberry said that after being in clerks' offices all over the state, "I know of no finer clerk than the one we have in Lexington."

Blevins was first elected county clerk on Jan. 4, 1982. He replaced retiring clerk Charles Baesler, Jr.

Before becoming county clerk, he served eight years as a member of the council. In 1974, he was the District 10 council representative, the seat his son currently holds, on the very first merged city-county council.

When Blevins began his tenure as clerk, his salary was $26,058 a year. His salary is now $100,456. A new Fayette County Clerk would make $87,238.

Blevins said he is most proud of his efforts to professionalize the office by implementing modern technologies, hiring people based on their knowledge and improving pay to reduce employee turnover.

"No one got hired here because they were a certain party or knew somebody," Blevins said. "The vast majority of people who came to work here, I had not met until they were selected."

Also, he was the first clerk in the state to convert land records to an electronic filing system, Blevins said.

Blevins said he does not plan to completely retire and is considering returning to the real estate business.

"I've got a lot of stored up knowledge in government and the state," he said. "There may be some ways I can contribute. I'm fully convinced that I'm still on top of my game and can make a contribution."