Belmont County Mourns Auditor Conroy, Appoints Replacement
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County officials learned of the death of Auditor Roger Conroy Tuesday.
In response, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning to appoint Chief Deputy Auditor Sheila Turner as interim auditor until the Belmont County Democratic Central Committee places a new auditor in office. Commissioners J.P. Dutton and Jerry Echemann were present, but Commissioner Josh Meyer was unable to attend.
“Our auditor, Roger Conroy, has died, and we offer condolences to his family and to everyone at the auditor’s office,” Echemann said.
He added afterward that Conroy had been ill. According to the Belmont County Board of Elections, Conroy was 65 and lived in Jacobsburg.
“Obviously I was very sad to hear of the passing of Roger. It was a pleasure working with him over the past year and a half or so,” Dutton said. “My heart goes out to his family and his staff. I know the last few months haven’t been easy both for his family and his staff. It was a difficult time and you hate to hear this news, but…we do need to make an appointment.”
Echemann said under state law, the county commissioners had five days to name an interim, but he and Dutton noted the importance of the auditor’s office meant that the position had to be filled immediately.
“I can’t think of a better person to serve in that role than Sheila,” Dutton said. “She has our full support with anything that she needs at this time. The commissioners office will be there to assist in any way that we need to. It’s important to the county for our two offices to continue to work together. I feel very secure knowing she will be in this role. … This office could not be in more capable hands during this interim.”
“I have every confidence that she’s going to do a great job … keeping that office up and running,” Echemann added.
Turner was then sworn-in by Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra with the auditor’s staff in attendance. A visibly emotional Turner, who has worked at the auditor’s office for 33 years, had few words.
“I miss him a lot,” Turner said.
Conroy, a longtime deputy auditor for the county, had almost 40 years of governmental experience, the majority involving county operations. He had worked for the Ohio State Auditor for 23 years as a state examiner and field audit supervisor. He began working at the Belmont County office around 2000. In 2017, Conroy, a Democrat, was appointed to the auditor’s position by the Belmont County Democratic party after prior auditor Andrew Sutak stepped down for health reasons. Conroy had served out the remainder of Sutak’s term that ended in March 2019. But he also had sought and won election to a full term this past Nov. 4 during the general election.
During his time as auditor, he helped to see the county through such projects as developing the county budget and addressing questions from residents regarding new land valuation assessments for property taxes in 2018.
“In my short time, it seems that office, more than any other office, just seems so critical to the workings of the county,” Echemann said.
Dutton said the work of the auditor’s office and the expertise of the staff made an impact on him as a new commissioner beginning his term in 2017.
“The county auditor has a lot of responsibilities, I think more so than a lot of the general public even realizes. More so that even I realized before becoming commissioner,” Dutton said.
“We’re getting into budget season. It’ll become much more involved as we’re getting into the fall,” he said.
The commissioners added that they already have a working relationship with Turner.
“Since Roger has been ill, we’ve been working with her a lot all along,” Echemann said.
Belmont County Treasurer Kathy Kelich said she had worked with Conroy’s office on financial issues related to the county. She commended his ability and professionalism.
“Roger was always a person I respected. We know that he had been ill for some time and had wished him good health and hoped that he would recover,” she said.
“He was a wonderful fellow. The whole family is a wonderful family,” Belmont County Democratic Chairman Phil Wallace said. “He’s going to be definitely missed, not only by me and the Democratic Party, but the county as well.”
Wallace said the party has no less than five nor more than 45 days to appoint a new auditor who will serve out the unexpired term and seek election in the 2020 primary elections.