Graham Retiring as Clerk
Catherine Graham will retire as Moore County clerk of court, effective Jan. 31.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb appointed a longtime deputy clerk, Susan Allen Hicks, to succeed Graham. Hicks will serve out the remainder of Graham's unexpired term and says she plans to run for election in November 2010.
Hicks was the only recommendation Graham made for her successor. Webb took her advice and signed the order shortly after reading Graham's letter with regret.
"She has done an outstanding job for 15 years," he said. "She will be missed in our court system. Ms. Graham spent two decades in a legal office and brought that experience with her when then Senior Resident Superior Court Judge F. Fetzer Mills appointed her. Ms. Graham recommended only one person to me, Ms. Susan Hicks, and I concurred 100 percent."
The office has seen many changes since Graham accepted her appointment. She is proud of the fact that it is entirely nonpolitical in operation. She does not even know the party affiliation of any of her deputies or assistants and does not ask.
"People are not hired based on party affiliation," she said. "I have never had anybody from my own Republican Party call me and say some particular person needs to be given a job."
Other changes she's been happy to see were this county's conversion to a single judicial district with its own senior resident Superior Court judge and its new status as a single prosecutorial district with its own district attorney.
"I was one of those advocating for that," Graham said. "It gives me pleasure to have been part of those who secured those changes."
Graham wrote to Webb, "It is with happiness, along with some sadness, that I announce my retirement as clerk of Moore Superior Court. I have enjoyed serving with you as senior resident Superior Court judge and thank you for all you do for our judicial system. You have always brought honor and respect to the Bench, and your knowledge of the law is inspiring to your peers. I express my gratitude to the citizens of Moore County for their confidence and trust in placing me in this important office. It has always been a most humbling experience knowing that so many people placed their trust in me to serve as a public servant in an area that affects so many people in so many different ways."
She and her husband, Al Graham, are planning a cross-country trip in the spring. They hope to spend more time with family, especially her youngest grandson, 2-month-old Jake Phillips.
"He lives in Denver," Graham said. "I always felt I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked with my two grandchildren who live in Moore County. I didn't spend as much time with them as I would have liked to, and I see how quickly they grew. There are three grandchildren and three step-grandchildren now."
Graham set a number of goals for herself when she took office. One resulted from noticing that nobody from this county had ever been president of the state Association of Clerks of Court.
"It was founded in 1917, but Moore County never had a president," she said. "You can't just volunteer to be president. I served on a lot of committees, did other jobs (for the association) and in 2006-2007 served as president. Now it is has become a conference of clerks of court as well as an association. That means better funding, more resources for training."
One challenge she knows Hicks will face will be a need for more modern technology.
"Different parts of our criminal systems cannot talk to each other," Graham said. "Bookkeeping systems do not. I think in the future our magistrates will be doing more of the work our courts do now."
Graham is grateful for the opportunities she's had, and there is more than a note of sadness in choosing retirement at this time.
"It has been good to see people who have said 'thank you' -- in the grocery store, on the street -- many of them people who've had to deal with issues of guardianship," she said.
In 1998, the North Carolina Guardianship Association presented a plaque to Graham "for exemplary service in guardianship proceedings." The Carthage Rotary Club recognized her as one of Moore County's outstanding citizens.
Graham said she will miss serving the people of her county, and miss people around the courthouse she has been seeing almost daily, particularly those on her staff. She has great confidence in her chosen successor.
The two crossed the courthouse hall to Webb's office, where he presented Hicks with his formal appointment and scheduled her to take the oath of office Feb. 1. Hicks asked Webb if he would administer the oath, and he agreed.
"I would like to thank Catherine Graham for her recommending me and the appointment by Judge Webb as clerk of Superior Court for Moore County," Hicks said. "I just feel very fortunate to have served the citizens of Moore County as a deputy clerk and then as assistant clerk of court, and now being given the opportunity to serve as the clerk of court. I look forward to the challenge. My 24 years of experience have prepared me to serve out the term of Catherine Graham, and I will be running in 2010."
Hicks and her husband live in Cameron. She is a lifelong Republican.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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