Tearful Goodbye

BEMUS POINT – After 20 years in office, Sandy Sopak is beginning what will surely be many tearful goodbyes.

The county clerk announced in May she would not be seeking a sixth term in office. Sopak has been serving as county clerk since 1994, the third woman to hold the position since 1811. Wednesday, she bid a tearful farewell to the Southern Tier Legal Secretaries, who met at Shaggy’s above the See-Zurh House for the group’s annual membership drive.

“I’ve really enjoyed my 20 years. Thank you so much for your support,” Sopak said. “I’d do it all over again. Now, how many people can say that? Not too many.”

Sopak presented to the group about her career before serving as county clerk, her 20 years as county clerk and her plans after leaving office, which include traveling with her husband.

In 1999, Sopak was honored with the Award of Merit, presented by the National Genealogical Society, by former Congressman Amo Houghton. She was the first county clerk to receive the award.

Sopak also was recognized in 2004 by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and Clerk of the Year by the New York State Association of County Clerks. Three years later, she won the Wheeler Melius Award for outstanding service in records management.

“I’ve had the time of my life. I’ve never regretted one minute of it,” Sopak said. “I’m really pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish. I think, in life – I’m sure you all feel the same way – if you’re gratified by what you do, and you’re pleased with what you do, when it’s all over and done, you’ve done a good job. That’s the way I feel.”

Doreen Loll, president of the Southern Tier Legal Secretaries, said Sopak is the only county clerk she has ever known. Loll said Sopak has always been easy to work with, and has gone out of her way to help solve problems.

“We’re all going to miss her quite a bit. There’s big shoes to fill there,” Loll said. “If you had a problem, she was always willing to help you figure it out. She had a wonderful staff. She’d put you in touch with whoever you needed to be; If it wasn’t her, she’d point you in the right direction. She was always ready to help.”

The Southern Tier Legal Secretaries meet the second Wednesday of each month, except January, at a different location each month for a dinner meeting. At each meeting, the group socializes and has a program, a speaker on subjects of interest to the group or visits one of the many entertainment venues in Chautauqua County.

Any person engaged as a legal secretary or stenographer, employed in any law office, in the courts, banking institutions, or in the legal department of any company or corporation, or in any public or private institution directly engaged in work of a legal nature, including all public offices, or employed in any professional office, is eligible for membership.

Membership is $6 for the first year of membership for new members. Thereafter, the membership is $12 a year, which runs from September to August. For more information, call Michelle Hilton at 664-4705.