MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Clerk Sandy Sopak has announced she will be retiring at the end of this year and will not seek re-election to a sixth term of office, ending an era spanning two decades.
Sopak, only the third woman to hold the office of county clerk since 1811, began her first term of office as Chautauqua County Clerk in 1994, before the introduction of computerizing records and electronic imaging of documents. Through numerous grants totaling more than $1.6 million, Sopak was able to upgrade the clerk's recording and filing system with the latest records management technology and scanned millions of documents to make the images available electronically. Under her administration, a state-of-the-art archival facility was developed to preserve hundreds of thousands of valuable historical documents.
"We've cleaned up, organized and upgraded from the dome to the sub-basement (of the courthouse)," Sopak said. "When I walked into the clerk's office that first day, it was as if time stood still and we were still in the 1800's. Today, I'm proud of the modernization of the way we capture and maintain the records while still being surrounded by the beautiful architecture and ambiance of this historical building and our historical documents."
Sopak's efforts have been recognized across the state and the country. In 1999, Congressman Amo Hougton recognized Sopak on the floor of Congress for the Award of Merit, presented by the National Genealogical Society, noting Sopak was the first county clerk ever to receive this award. She was also presented the Women of Achievement in Chautauqua County Award in 2003, the William H. Kelly Award for excellence in records management, and in 2004, Sopak earned the respect of her peers by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award as well as being named Clerk of The Year by the New York State Association of County Clerks. In 2007 she was also awarded the Wheeler Melius Award for Outstanding Service to Records Management.
"After five terms of office and 20 years of living, breathing, crying and bleeding the County Clerk's office, it's time to turn it over, knowing I left it better than I found it with a solid foundation for the next clerk," Sopak said. "If I can give any advice on electing a new county clerk it would be this: Being the County Clerk isn't a political job, it's a tough, multi-faceted management position overseeing the three DMV offices, the county records management department, the department of weights and measures, serving as the clerk of the Supreme and County Courts and being the recorder and keeper of all land records. It is an enormous responsibility that most people don't think about, but is vital to their everyday lives. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the people of Chautauqua County. You have all been so wonderful to me. I will enjoy seeing you out and about in this beautiful county we call home."