New clerk appointed

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

The Roosevelt County Commission grudgingly filled the county clerk position Monday that was vacated last week in protest to New Mexico becoming the 17th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriages.

During an emergency meeting Monday, commissioners expressed their disappointment with state Supreme Court’s ruling but felt the need to make an appointment for fear that if they didn’t act, the governor’s office would appoint a clerk for them.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune Ninth Judicial District Judge Donna Mowrer swears in DeAun Searl as Roosevelt County’s new county clerk Monday. The seat became vacant Friday after former Roosevelt County Clerk Donna Carpenter resigned in protest because issuing same-sex marriage licenses conflicted with her personal and religious beliefs.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune
Ninth Judicial District Judge Donna Mowrer swears in DeAun Searl as Roosevelt County’s new county clerk Monday. The seat became vacant Friday after former Roosevelt County Clerk Donna Carpenter resigned in protest because issuing same-sex marriage licenses conflicted with her personal and religious beliefs.

“The issue is not over; keep praying guys,” Commissioner Kendell Buzard said about the same-sex marriage ruling.

Commissioners expressed hopes that one of the state’s legislators will propose a constitutional amendment in the upcoming legislative session to define marriage as between a man and a woman. They hope the issue will come before voters in an election.

The commission appointed DeAun Searl, 43, who has been with the clerk’s office for a little more than five years.

Searl promised as clerk to do her job to the full extent of the law, regardless of her personal beliefs.

“My opinion does not matter, my opinion is irrelevant,” said Searl about the state’s same-sex marriage ruling and any other laws. “I was appointed to do a job and I’m going to do that job to the best of my ability.”

Searl replaces former County Clerk Donna Carpenter, who resigned Friday in protest of the state’s same-sex marriage decision. Carpenter’s Deputy Clerk Janet Collins also resigned for similar reasons.

Carpenter, who had been with the office for nine years and was elected clerk in 2012, said issuing same-sex marriage licenses went against her personal beliefs and religious principles.

Collins was Carpenter’s predecessor and served in the office for 21 years. She was to retire in January.

A few citizens shared thoughts in the public comment section of the meeting, prior to the commission making its decision, that mirrored the commissioners thoughts on the issue.

“You’re making a difficult decision and you’re in a hard position,” Portales contractor Steve Davis said to the commissioners about their appointment. “I know a lot of you pretty well and I think your beliefs are the same as mine.”

Davis, 55, felt no matter who the commission named as the new clerk, that person would be judged for “making them do something against God’s word.”

“God’s word clearly states what we’ve been directed to do is wrong,” said Davis of the clerk issuing same-sex marriage licenses. “It’s my beliefs. I believe strongly in God’s word.”

Searl will serve as county clerk until the next general election in November 2014, which at that point in order to retain the seat she would have to run for office.

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