Westmoreland Register of Wills race pits office holder against longtime office worker
The race for Westmoreland County register of wills pits the incumbent against one of the office’s longtime staff members.
Democrat Katie Pecarchik, 51, is challenging Sherry Magretti Hamilton, 42, a Republican who is in her first four-year term.
Pecarchik, a Hempfield resident, questions how much time Magretti Hamilton spends at the courthouse row office. Workers there handle the filing and docketing of actions in Orphans’ Court, including estates, guardianship, marriage licenses and adoptions. The office is the central location for century-old birth and death records.
Pecarchik filed a Right-to-Know request in September with Westmoreland County seeking “daily entry time logs” for Magretti Hamilton, also of Hempfield, during the last four years. Those records don’t exist.
“I believe that the row officers, they are elected to do a job and paid to do a job, they should be there full time,” Pecarchik said. “She is not there every day.”
Magretti Hamilton said employees who are paid a salary don’t have to file a time log. She has come into the courthouse on off hours to help get records for residents and last-minute marriage licenses. The register of wills earns about $75,000 annually.
“Being an elected official is not a 9-to-5 job,” she said. “It’s a job that you’re on the job 365 days a year, all day.”
Magretti Hamilton touted her improvements to the office and pointed to her expertise as a lawyer as reasons she should be reelected.
“The register of wills is actually a quasi-judicial position,” she said.
Magretti Hamilton sometimes has to preside over hearings or make a decision about a will or estate. She thinks it’s important to have the post filled by someone who understands the legal process.
During her first term, estate records were put online and marriage records on microfilm were digitized, making them easily searchable. Those improvements have made it easier for office staff to take some services outside of the courthouse into the community, for example to help residents obtain a Real ID, she said.
Magretti Hamilton, who previously worked as the office’s chief deputy, was involved with creating a statewide system for judges to track guardianship cases.
Pecarchik, who has worked in the office for 16 years, thinks there are still improvements that can be made. She wants to make certain public records available online in their entirety for free. Pecarchik said there should be enough income through $10 automation fees that are already charged to people filing documents with the office to offset any losses.
“There’s not a whole lot online that people can see right now,” she said.
Pecarchik is qualified to perform every function of the office, she said.
“At some point in your life, you will need our office,” she said. “You need a register of wills who is going to be there for you, and I am that person.”
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .