After 30 years of service as Clerk of the Circuit Court for Kent County, Mark Mumford officially exited the courthouse on May 1, 2020, turning over his duties to his chief deputy, Sherise Kennard.
In normal times, Mumford’s retirement would have come with great fanfare. And why not, Mumford, 62, has helped drive the fanfare, and many other activities in Kent County since his youth.
That fact that Mumford is the longest serving elected clerk of court in Kent County history is just one high mark for a man whose influence is found deeply embedded in Kent County.
“I am a people person at the core of it,” Mumford commented during an interview.
Mumford’s people skills started early. He worked his way up from Cub Scout through Webelos to Boy Scouts. He arrived at Kent County High School in Worton in 1972 and emerged as a leader then – and found his “go to” path to center stage as drum major for the Kent County Marching Band.
“I joined the band in 9th grade,” Mumford said. He would lead the band to award-winning performances during his tenure. Mumford also helped found the school’s Ecology Club, something very important to Mumford, who later helped build Kent County’s annual Earth Day celebration.
He also served as a legislative page in the Maryland House of Delegates during the 1976 session.
Mumford received the coveted Helen Wagner Service Award to recognize his commitment to public service during high school.
Mumford took volunteering seriously and started with the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company in high school. He was honored with a lifetime membership in 1992.
Mumford had a mind for business. He bought his first property, a rental property next to his parent’s home in the 500 block of High Street, at 18, and that interest in real estate continues to today. His mother, Mabel Mumford Pautz was the long serving Chestertown councilperson.
Mumford attended Chesapeake College and started working for The Peoples Bank, where he rose to be a loan officer. When start-up bank Second National opened a branch in Chestertown (home of BB&T today), bank president Henry Berliner tapped Mumford to run the local operation. Mumford remained at Second National Bank until he ran for Clerk of Court in 1990.
Mumford had his eyes set on the Clerk of Court for many years. “I liked the clerk’s job because it’s not political, it’s black and white,” Mumford said.
He chose 1990 because changes were under way at the courthouse: Judge George B. Rasin, Jr. had retired a few years earlier. Judge Elroy Boyer’s term was short. J. Frederick Price would run for reelection as State’s Attorney and be appointed to the bench shortly after the 1990 election.
Earl Pinder had been clerk of court for 28 years. A leader of the Kent County Republican Party, former trooper, and chairman of The Peoples Bank board, Pinder was rumored to be considering retirement.
Years earlier, Mumford had told Pinder about his aspiration to serve as clerk of court when the two made site visits to evaluate properties for loans.
Pinder would not retire, but would attempt another re-election. That did not phase Mumford, who had a solid campaign strategy: Run on innovation.
“1990 was the year,” Mumford recalled. “It was the age of William Donald Schaefer and the Democrats wanted that office back.”
Mumford would end up being the highest vote getter of any candidate that year, an outcome of voter support he continued to earn through the last election.
Over the next 30 years he brought the clerk’s office from the 19th century to the 21st century. In the age of COVID-19 and remote court operations, Mumford’s foresight is paying off.
“When I arrived there was not one PC in the office,” Mumford remarked. “It took for years to move IT from the bottom of the list to the top.”
All through Mumford’s tenure, Kent County has led the way in tech innovation. In 1998, Mumford volunteered his office to serve as a beta site for Mdlandrec.net, the online database where Maryland recorded instruments are stored. By agreeing to innovate, Kent was rewarded with a rare prize: all of its land records were scanned into the Mdlandrec.net system.
Plats.net, the state plat database, was added a few years later. Mumford was also able to add the surveys of famed Kent County surveyor William Nuttle to the Clerk’s Office library, an incredible resource for local surveyors, land developers, and attorneys.
“Technology brings more efficiency, but there is nothing easier about it,” Mumford remarked, pointing out that the office operates 18 separate computer programs.
“The courts have been revolutionized by MDEC,” Mumford said, referring to the State’s unified court case management tool. “Each county circuit court stands on its own. Reform was difficult, but MDEC has brought the most amazing transition.”
“Automation is proving itself,” Mumford said about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Courts will never be the same.”
In a time when aged politicians are still grabbing for the political brass ring, Mumford’s departure is just another step in his plan. Mumford has built a great reputation as a wedding celebrant during his tenure. His office issued 180 marriage licenses in 2018.
As of May 1, Mumford is launching M&M Services, a consulting firm providing marriage and life celebration services.
A lifelong Roman Catholic who grew up in the Sacred Heart parish, Mumford was ordained in the Universal Life Church in 2014. He is now open to assist couples with weddings and families with celebrating the lives of loved ones who have passed away, advising on cremation and planning life celebration events.
“I have weddings booked through July 2021,” Mumford said.
As Mumford starts his new venture, he is one person whose mark on our community is indelible. Whether out front leading or working behind the scenes, you see his influence in organizations such as the Galena Alumni Band that became the Community Marching Band – and Chestertown Tea Party festival, among his legacies.
Thank you for your service, Mark Mumford, and continued blessings in the future.