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Beaufort resident Jerri Ann Roseneau will replace Elizabeth Smith as Beaufort County clerk of court, Gov. Mark Sanford announced Friday at the county courthouse.
"A number of names came before us, each with different merits," Sanford said."But no name came up as often as Jerri's."
The position became vacant last week when Elizabeth Smith resigned her post, just more than eight months after being elected to her third four-year term. Smith has been indicted on embezzlement charges and is accused of tapping public money for her personal use.
Roseneau, who previously worked at the Lady's Island law firm of Howell, Gibson and Hughes, also was recommended by State Reps. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, and Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, and State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.
"Thank you, governor, for the confidence you placed in me," Roseneau said as her husband, Mark, and two children looked on. "I'm very humbled. I look forward to working with the exceptional staff that is here. I'm looking forward to doing the best job that I can for the citizens of Beaufort County."
Roseneau also said she plans to run for the Clerk of Court office when it is again up for election, though it's not clear when that election will be held.
Several officials initially believed a special election would be held in December, but county attorney Ladson Howell has sent a letter to Attorney General Henry McMaster requesting an opinion about state statutorial and constitutional provisions that suggest Roseneau would fill the vacancy until the scheduled general election cycle in either 2010 or 2012.
Sanford said Friday he believes Roseneau will fill out the remainder of Smith's term, which expires in 2012.
Howell said he expects to hear back from the Attorney General's office in several weeks.
Roseneau's potentially lengthy term -- three years and three months at the longest, the governor said -- factored into the selection process.
Sanford said he might have selected an internal candidate to fill the vacancy if a special election were to be held, but instead "spent a lot of time with folks in Beaufort County" to gauge their opinions. He spoke with Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone -- both of whom endorsed Roseneau along with the three county delegation members -- among others.
"A name that kept reoccurring was 'Jerri,'" said Sanford, who presented Roseneau with a personal letter of support and a copy of the executive order naming her clerk of court. "She'll be a great guardian of taxpayer interests."
Davis said that when he heard of Smith's indictment and resignation and began talking to members of the county's legal community, Roseneau was frequently mentioned as an ideal replacement.
"Jerri's name kept coming up time and time again from both Republicans and Democrats alike. ... It verified what I already knew about her," Davis said.
Erickson met Roseneau while teaching her daughter's preschool class several years ago and maintained a personal relationship with her.
"I know Jerri to be a humble, loyal and steadfast person," Erickson said. "She's a woman who will take this office and be honest and forthright and transparent."
Roseneau requested a meeting with deputy county administrator Bryan Hill and other officials to discuss specifics of her new job, as well as the office's budget, Hill said, adding that meeting likely will take place next week.
Beaufort County Probate Judge Francis Simon was in charge of the clerk's office in the days leading up to Roseneau's selection. He said that selection proved the system works.
"When people thought that the wheels were off the bus, they didn't come off the bus," Simon said. "The system continued."