Debbie Smith said she was in the right place at the right time when a former deputy clerk quit and she applied for the position.
Lois Trimble had already worked in banking and in the school system. She was looking for a job after she moved to Richmond in 1984 and a friend recommended that she apply at the clerk’s office.
For both, those applications led to long careers at the Clark Circuit Clerk’s Office.
Thursday, both Smith and Trimble retired with a total of 66 years of experience in the clerk’s office — 37 and a half for Smith and 24 and a half for Trimble.
“It’s like losing a member of the family,” Clark Circuit Clerk Paula Joslin said during a reception Thursday at Holly Rood. “We spend more time with (each other) than our families. We’ve been through a lot with each other personally and we’ll miss them.”
Trimble said she was hired to work in the circuit division handling civil cases, and that’s where she stayed. She said she was asked several times if she wanted to do something else within the office, but she always declined because she was happy doing the work.
There was change, as the judges came and went. Through her years, Trimble counted only five circuit judges, including the current judges Jean Chenault Logue and William Clouse.
In contrast, Smith couldn’t count definitively now many judges she worked with. There were more than a dozen, including police judges and county judges plus many district judges. Through those years, there were only three county attorneys: Bob Rose, Gardner Wagers and Brian Thomas, she said.
Smith wound up specializing in criminal matters in district court, though it was not where she began in 1978.
“In the beginning, we all did a little of everything,” Smith said. “Then we specialized a little bit after a while.”
One of the biggest changes came in 1978 when the city and county courts merged and became district court, which handles misdemeanor criminal cases, those involving juveniles, probates and small claims cases. Smith and then deputy circuit clerk Paula Joslin were two of the original four deputies.
That change happened state-wide, but Smith said Clark County was usually one of the first to try any new program that came along.
“We were always the ones developing for new programs,” Smith said. “Our office was the pilot.”
The other big change came in 1989 when computers entered the office. Prior to that, Joslin said they relied on carbon paper and one copier, which was located in another office of the courthouse.
“When I¿first went to work in 1984, we typed on a typewriter (and prepared everything) in duplicate,” Trimble said. “It’s made the work a lot easier.”
Computers were the start as other technological changes came through the years including better and better recording systems in the court rooms. They recently added document scanners and projectors in the circuit courtroom.
While technology helps, much of the job is about working with people. That can be both the most stressful and the most rewarding parts of the job, Trimble said.
“When there’s people who need help and there’s nothing you can do for them” it gets frustrating, she said.
Both said they are excited to find out what retirement holds. For Smith, that means more time with her family and enjoying retirement.
Trimble said she has no definite plans.
“I’m excited. I think I’m ready for it,” she told one person during the reception Thursday.
Contact Fred Petke at firstname.lastname@example.org.