The first salvo of the 2018 Wicomico County election season was fired Friday as Clerk of the Circuit Court Mark Bowen announced he will not seek re-election.
A Salisbury native, Bowen has served 33 years in the clerk’s office, which he joined after graduating from Salisbury University in 1982. He succeeded A. James Smith as Clerk of Court in July 1987, and went on to win seven consecutive elections as a Democrat.
Bowen, 56, informed his Courthouse staff members of his decision on Thursday.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a job I love and a staff that is the greatest,” Bowen told the Salisbury Independent. “It’s time for me to travel, and be with my family and spend time with my three grandchildren.”
He added: “Life is too short and I want time to enjoy it.”
Across Maryland, the clerk’s office files, processes and maintains civil, criminal and juvenile actions. The clerk and their staff also record land deeds, mortgages, plats, conveyances and other important documents.
Bowen is frequently seen in newspaper photographs administering oaths of office to city and county officials, judges, and all gubernatorial appointees.
Because the clerk’s office also issues business and marriage licenses, and performs civil marriage ceremonies, Bowen has appeared in countless wedding photos. By his count, Bowen has performed more than 6,000 wedding ceremonies either in his offices or on the courthouse grounds.
The Wicomico Senior High School alumnus said he will serve until the completion of his term in December 2018, but has no plans after that.
“I’m sure there will be some tears and fears,” Bowen said. “But I never had the goal of being here forever.”
Bowen said he is announcing his departure early to allow “anyone in the community who may be contemplating” a run time to consider. Bowen has only be challenged for re-election in four of his seven races, the last challenge coming in 2006.
He faced his most severe challenge in 1990, his first race after being appointed to the post, when he turned back future county executive Rick Pollitt and local real estate broker Michael Weisner.
Bowen was recently applauded by County Executive Bob Culver for alerting the county to a recordation fees collection option that has rewarded the county with vast sums money. Bowen’s suggestion allowed the county to bypass a 5 percent lump that had long been forwarded to the state — generating between $200,000 and $500,000 annually for the county.
In his 30 years as clerk, Bowen has also overseen modernization of a paper-heavy organization into an electronic one.
“(In my time) we’ve gone from handwritten to typewritten to computer,” he said. In fact, in just the last year, his and other Clerk of Court offices in the state have gone entirely paperless, with court documents only available online.
Bowen’s Wicomico County Courthouse staff numbers nearly 30; his position is pays $111,600 annually.
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org