Jewell Aguilar enjoys her family and believes she is “blessed beyond measure.”
She currently serves as the county clerk, which means she is the county’s chief election officer.
Aguilar worked in the clerk’s office for 35 years before opting to run for the position after longtime clerk Mike Goode retired.
She and her husband Mark have two children, Whitney Bailey, of Pineville, and Chad Aguilar, of Columbia, S.C., as well as eight grandchildren – Sophie, Chloe, Zachary, Kennedy, Cooper, Ali, Madi, and Bentley.
You grew up in Oceana? Tell me about that, what was it like when you were growing up?
Yes, I grew up in Oceana. I was an only child and a coal miner’s daughter. My dad worked 42-plus years in the mines at Kopperston and served as the UMWA Local Union 7604 president for many years, while my mom was a homemaker and took care of the family.
I was happy growing up in Oceana, loved spending time with family and friends. I spent a lot of time at the Oceana pool. In those days, that was the place to socialize. Kids and teens spent time outside all the time. Life without cell phones was wonderful!
How many years did you work in the clerk’s office before deciding to run for office? Why did you decide to run?
I worked in the county clerk’s office 35 years before deciding to run for the position. During this entire time, I worked for Mike Goode and he opted to retire at the end of his last term.
The intent of running for office had never really entered my mind until he decided to retire and we (our office staff) knew we would have a new clerk, but who?
It was at this time in my life that people began approaching me and encouraging me to run for county clerk. And, they were serious about it! Me? I wasn’t a politician! Wyoming Countians really get serious about elections and their candidates!
I was honestly so humbled by this, and especially when all my co-workers in the office and many throughout the courthouse proved to be so supportive of this idea. I realized then that I should give this some serious thought. I prayed about it – a lot. I needed God to give me direction.
So, after discussing it with my family and several close friends, I began calling people I had come to know and respect across the county over the years, to see if they would consider supporting my campaign. And the results were incredible. I still cannot begin to tell you how that made me feel. Therefore, I felt like I received my answer.
And I decided to file my candidacy papers and give it my best shot. I felt like I needed to do this, that if this many people had confidence in me, I needed to use my experience to help keep our office moving forward.
Did you ever work at any other jobs?
No, I have never worked anywhere else. I was hired here as a part-time employee, which lasted about six months and I became full-time. I worked wherever I was needed in the office, learning basic office duties.
I was taking accounting classes during this time. Accounting was my passion and I assumed I would leave at some point for another job.
Soon after, an opening became available for the bookkeeping position and Mike offered it to me. This was a great responsibility, but one that I truly enjoyed.
I realize that my experiences as the financial record keeper and secretary was a great asset in preparing me to serve as county clerk and I am grateful for that opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about the clerk’s office?
Being with people. I, of course, enjoy working with everyone at our courthouse. Everyone knows their jobs and they do them well.
I also enjoy people just dropping by to talk with me. I have an open-door policy and I want people to always feel welcome to stop in.
I enjoy working with our county officials as well. I feel it’s very important to have a good working relationship with all our elected officials to better serve our citizens and I certainly appreciate our ability to communicate on any and all issues that arise.
What I believe I really enjoy the most though is when we (myself, our staff or the commission) can help another agency or individual with a situation or need that is important to them.
What do you like least?
I suppose what I like the least is the politics of government at times. Naturally, politics just goes with this job and I simply try to handle any situation in the right manner. I have my own morals and values, and I certainly feel that any person elected to a government office should be held to high standards.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Why?
The biggest influence in my life would be my parents, Darvin and Eula Spears, and my husband, Mark.
People have jokingly compared me to my dad over the years and I take that as a huge compliment. I learned that honesty, respect and good work ethics are a must. I watched my dad go out to work every single day, while Mom worked in our home.
The only time Dad was off was for miner’s vacation or if he was absolutely too sick to go, which was rare.
I learned that you take care of your family and your job and you do your best at your job. At the end of the day, go home to your family and leave the job at the office.
He was also very active in the UMWA and I always respected him for standing up for what he believed in, especially when it wasn’t easy.
My husband has those same work ethics and is also an active UMWA officer for Local Union 781. Mark and I are hand-in-hand in everything we do. Mark is my biggest supporter and best friend.
How do you hope to make a difference in Wyoming County?
For the first two years of this term, it’s honestly not been so much about making a difference, but more about keeping the office running smoothly.
For example, we have had some turnover in employees in this short time. Some very dear friends and valued employees retired – not because they really wanted to, but life happens and sometimes it becomes necessary.
It’s an understatement to say that key personnel, with years of experience, are difficult to replace. Dedication and teamwork from the office staff pulled it together.
Several of my staff have assumed new positions and/or taken on additional responsibilities as well as teaching our new hires the duties required of them.
I have also had to manage learning and teaching at the same time.
I must say, I’m so proud of our office; these ladies truly care about this office and the people that we serve.
In the past two years, we have undergone several changes in our department, such as software and programming improvements as well.
And, to put the icing on the cake, county clerks are guaranteed at least two elections every other year – a primary and a general. Most people don’t realize the increased volume of work that is experienced during election cycles.
We have successfully completed not only two, but four elections in two years and kept the wheels turning!
My initial goal, when taking office, was to keep the office running as efficiently as it has in the past. We have accomplished that!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I live a little closer to the present than that. I know my family ties will be strong as family is a priority with me. As far as changes, I will just have to wait and see what God has for me at that time.
In fact, 10 years ago, I never saw myself as the county clerk today. The timing was perfect. I had gained some valuable experience. I have made lifelong friends, wonderful people from all over the county came together and supported me; and God gave me the ability and He then put it all together.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
I don’t have much of that! I love spending time with my family! Mark and I like to take our grandkids on trips, camping and boating. I like to work in my yard and flower beds to see if I can get anything to grow – seriously. Basically, I enjoy being outdoors!
What is the one thing in your life of which you are most proud?
My family. Life would be so empty without my family. I love our life together.
I often think of my dad and wish I could have had him with me during this time of my life. I wonder what he would have said about me running for office. I know he would have been on the campaign trail, backing me up!
I am so thankful for my family; I have wonderful memories and making more all the time!
Do you have any advice for those who may want to hold public office?
The advice I would give someone wanting to hold public office is to show respect to everyone. You have to give respect to gain respect. Gain some knowledge about the office you want to hold and be willing to learn from others. Stand up for what you believe in, always strive to do what is right, and remember where you came from.
Anything you want to add?
I would like to thank everyone who helped put me in office, I am truly honored to serve as your county clerk.