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Lee appointed Upshur County auditor





GILMER--Upshur County Clerk Brandy Lee was appointed County Auditor on July 30 by 115th District Judge Lauren Parish after Janice Tucker resigned the Auditor's position effective the previous day.

The County Commissioners Court will consider appointing an interim County Clerk, and discuss the forthcoming 2013-14 budget, at a special meeting at 9 a.m. today (Wednesday, Aug. 7), said County Judge Dean Fowler. Those will be the only items on the agenda for the meeting on the third floor of the Upshur County Courthouse.

In the wake of Lee's resignation as County Clerk, that office's chief deputy, Kaye Cain, was placed in charge of it. She has worked there for more than 30 years.

Tucker had come under fire from some county officials--although not Judge Parish--after a nearly $1 million shortfall in county funds surfaced earlier this year. Tucker and Fowler essentially blamed each other for the deficit, and she defended her performance in a July 30 phone interview with this newspaper.

Her resignation and Lee's appointment were announced in a brief press release from Judge Parish on July 30. The judge, who expressed regret over Tucker's departure, swore in Lee that day.

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.

The county clerk-turned-auditor and her husband, J.D. Lee, have two sons, Jaxon, 7, and Dylan, 5.

Lee told this newspaper the night of July 30 she took the auditing 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, Parish noted 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 on the day of the appointment. "She is efficient and she is not afraid of anybody. . .She's a bulldog," said Berka, who was among Tucker's critics.

Added Fowler on that same day, "I think that Brandy will be a fine County Auditor."

Last Wednesday, Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry, Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner and Pct. 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer also lauded the appointment in comments to this newspaper.

"I think Brandy will do a really good job," said Gentry, adding that 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 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." 

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 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."

Tucker, who became auditor in January 2010, told this newspaper July 30  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 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.

Tucker also said 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."