Jewell, Mumford, Price commended for decades of service

CHESTERTOWN — “All rise,” Mark Mumford said in his distinctive baritone voice.

And with that, on Dec. 12, the ceremonial session of the Circuit Court for Kent County came to a close.

Judge Harris P. Murphy, the county administrative judge for Kent, presided over a ceremony that celebrated the longstanding commitment of Mumford, who served 30 years as the elected clerk of the court; John F. Price IV, who served 28 years as the elected sheriff; and Nancy Lee Jewell, who served 19 years as the elected register of wills.

The ceremony included a dedication of plaques for the three honorees along a wall on the first floor of the Kent County George B. Rasin Jr. Courthouse in Chestertown and relocation of plaques previously dedicated in honor of Earl Pinder, clerk of court; Bartus O. Vickers, sheriff; and E. Randolph “Pete” Burgess and his daughter Janet Lee Ashley, who served in succession as register of wills.

The gallery of the second-floor circuit courtroom was filled with family, former colleagues, friends and other well-wishers, including current state and local officials. Among those seated in the front row were retired Judges J. Frederick Price and Floyd L. Parks, Board of Kent County Commissioners President Ron Fithian and state Del. Jay Jacobs.

“Kent County is a very special place and one of the reasons is the quality and dedication and service of our elected officials,” Judge Murphy said in his welcome from the bench.

Nancy Lee Jewell was three years into a fifth term when she stepped down in February 2017, citing health concerns.

On March 1 of that year, Jewell’s tenure as register of wills officially came to an end with the swearing in of her deputy Kristi Osborn to the post.

“It was a privilege to be appointed to fulfill the remainder of her term and those were big shoes to fill,” Osborn, who subsequently was elected to a full term in 2018 and re-elected in 2022, told the gathering.

Osborn said she believed that had it not been for health reasons Jewell would “still be holding the position.”

Jewell passed away in February 2020 at the age of 68.

She started to learn her way around the courthouse while still in high school, hired by highly respected attorney Ernest Cookerly as a legal secretary.

Upon her graduation from Chestertown High School in 1970, Jewell continued to work for the Cookerly law firm for about 30 years.

Osborn said Jewell always credited Ernest Cookerly with instilling in her a strong work ethic and “teaching her everything she knew.”

In 1998, at the age of 46, Jewell won the first of five consecutive terms as Kent County Register of Wills.

It was Jewell who hired Osborn in 2003.

“I didn’t know her or what I was getting myself into,” Osborn said, while adding that over the next 13 years they became great friends.

It was with Jewell’s blessing that Osborn was appointed to serve out the remainder of Jewell’s term.

Eliciting chuckles from those in the gallery, Osborn spoke of Jewell’s straightforward manner.

“You always knew how she felt about you, she told it like it was and that’s just how it was,” Osborn said.

Jewell’s husband Tom and friends attended the ceremony, including Ernest Cookerly’s son Richard, also an attorney, but did not make any remarks.

Clerk of Court Sherise Kennard, who followed Mark Mumford in that post in the spring of 2020, introduced her former boss.

Kennard began by saying, “It is with great pleasure to stand before you today as we dedicate and remember the three honorees for their remarkable leadership and dedication to public service.”

After summarizing Mumford’s accomplishments leading up to his election in 1990, and describing him as a “pillar of Kent County for his community service,” Kennard delved into Mumford’s tenure as the longest-serving elected Clerk of the Circuit Court for Kent County.

Mumford, who was elected to an unprecedented eighth consecutive term in November 2018, retired at the end of April 2020 with nearly two and a half years still to serve.

Kennard was appointed by Judge Murphy to fill the vacancy and won election in her own right in 2022.

Kennard said that during Mumford’s first two years in office, the clerk’s office had no automation. He is credited with working expeditiously with the Judicial Information System team to have Kent County brought into the 21st century.

All courts throughout the State of Maryland now have some 18 computer programs to file, record and manage all aspects of the work maintaining the record in accordance with the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Mumford served as treasurer of the Maryland Clerks Association for 12 years. He was a member of the Legislative Committee and the Conference of Circuit Court Clerks, and was appointed by two (now retired) chief judges to serve on the Judicial Ethics Committee.

Mumford was well known by his colleagues for being outspoken and voicing his opinion when it came to providing fair, efficient and effective justice for all, according to Kennard.

“Mark’s dedication and hard work reflects on how the clerk’s office operates today,” she said.

Speaking directly to Mumford, who was seated inside the railing, Kennard said, “Although we couldn’t have the planned retirement party because of COVID that you were so deserving of, we will be reminded daily, as we walk the hallway and see your plaque for 30 years of service as clerk of court hanging on the wall. Thanks again Mark for your dedication and service. Well done.”

Mumford said he was humbled by the recognition and the large turnout, which included his Kent Street neighbors.

“I’m honored and kind of overwhelmed,” he said.

Mumford recognized his mother Mabel as his No. 1 mentor. He thanked members of his staff, most of whom were in attendance, and singled out Judge Fred Price for his “wonderful leadership” as their tenures coincided for nearly 20 years.

Dennis Hickman, who was elected sheriff in 2022 after more than 20 years with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, spoke about his predecessor — and former boss — John Price.

Having just completed his first year as sheriff, Hickman said he had new appreciation for Price, who served seven terms — 28 years — as the county’s top cop.

Price did not seek an eighth term as sheriff, opting to run instead for one of three seats on the Board of County Commissioners.

He was the top vote-getter in the commissioners’ race in 2022.

All told, Price served 43 years in law enforcement. After about 10 years with the Chestertown Police Department, he was hired as a sergeant with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office in 1990.

He was first elected sheriff in 1994.

Also speaking from inside the railing, Price said, “This is very, very humbling.”

He thanked his family — wife Sharon, daughters Jenny and Susie, four granddaughters, mother Ann and sister Rosie were in attendance — and the deputies and other KCSO staff, many of whom also were in the gallery.

“There are so many people in this room who are reasons for my success,” Price said.

Before the ceremonial session of court was adjourned, on former clerk Mark Mumford’s directive of “All rise,” Judge Murphy reminded everyone of the plaque dedication that was to follow on the first floor of the historic courthouse.

He explained that three existing plaques were moved to a more visible place, sharing wall space with the new plaques.

Earl Pinder served 28 years (seven terms) as clerk of the court; Bartus Vickers, 32 years (eight terms) as sheriff; Pete Burgess, 23 years as register of wills; and Janet Lee Ashley, 20 years as register of wills. Ashley was the chief deputy in the register of wills office for 17 years before succeeding her father upon his death in 1978.

Just before pulling back the drape that covered all six plaques, Judge Murphy said the many, many years of service underscored the “extreme level of public confidence” in the honorees.

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