Circuit clerk hanging it up
Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 5, 2013
Roger Powell has always been a keeper of things.
When the longtime circuit clerk started his career at the Covington County Courthouse, he helped to keep up with juvenile probationers.
After spending 13 years in a position he loved, Powell said he felt the pull to try something different, and at the urging of the community, he ran and won the seat he’s held for the last 24 years – the keeper of the court system.
But at midnight on Jan. 14, Powell will turn over his clerkship to Amy Jones – and head home, ready then, he said, to keep developing his artistic talent.
“I was 21 when I started at the courthouse,” Powell said. “In total, I’ve been here 37 years – my whole professional life.”
Powell said public service has always been his calling.
“It is my thing, I guess you’d say,” he said. “I enjoy working with the public, and when the previous clerk retired in 1988, I was ready for a challenge. I was encouraged by a lot of people to run. I ran the first time and was elected, and then for the next three terms, didn’t have any opposition.”
Powell said many don’t realize the role the clerk’s office plays in the court process.
“The circuit clerk’s office is like the business office of the courthouse, and the clerk the manager,” he said. “Everything in this courthouse comes through the clerk’s office at one time – people, money, paperwork. We handle things, too, that you wouldn’t think of, like passports and absentee voting. It’s a lot.”
Not only is the workload large for office staff, so is the need to adapt to the changing technological times, Powell said.
“When I started, we worked with ledgers and large docket books,” he said. “In 1994-1995, everything was computerized, and this fall, clerk’s offices statewide were ordered to go paperless in civil proceedings. It was a huge challenge, and I bet that the same will be done for criminal proceedings in the future. Working this office is always a challenge.”
Of course, it’s not all work and no play, Powell said.
“You have to find the humor in things,” he said. “People come in to pay fines on their drug case with money that smells like marijuana and people with bad checks try to pay with a check. You just have to laugh sometimes.”
Powell, a well-known artist, said after his retirement he plans to continue his commissioned work and maybe find a part-time job.
“It’s been a good run,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I’m grateful to the public. People aren’t generally happy when they come to the clerk’s office. They’re getting sued, suing some, paying a fine or the like. The success of this office is because of its exceptional staff. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Powell and his wife of 24 years, Cathy, have two children – Allyn, a first-year law student at The University of Alabama, and Lauren, a junior at UA majoring in advertising.