“It was Mayberry-ish back then,” Sandie Cannon said, , referring to the small and sleepy mountain town that was the setting for the popular long-running TV series “The Andy Griffith Show,” while talking about what the Caldwell County Courthouse was like when she started working there in 1976.
“Then, we had one bailiff and one clerk for each courtroom,” Cannon recalls. “Technology has been the biggest change.”
She still recalls the lanoline ink smell of the mimeograph machine as it cranked out the day’s court dockets. Cannon spent countless hours typing out court minutes on index cards.
“Now,” she says, “dockets can be ready in five minutes with just a click of a mouse button.”
Cannon, 61, will file her final docket on June 1, when she retires as the Caldwell County Clerk of Court, a post she has held since 2000. But she first set foot in the halls of justice as a deputy clerk after a four-year stint as an administrative assistant at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.
Cannon was appointed clerk of court when the sitting clerk, Jeanette Turner, retired in December 1999. While reluctant to talk about herself, Cannon did allow she came to the job highly recommended.
“Judge Claude Sitton was the resident sitting judge,” Cannon said. “He interviewed every member of the Caldwell County Bar and clerk’s office, and other officials. Everyone unanimously supported me."
The job is not easy. Every legal issue begins with, is processed by, and finishes with her office. As judge of probate, Cannon has exclusive original jurisdiction over matters relating to the probate of wills and the administration of estates, including appointing personal representatives, auditing their accounting and removing them from office if necessary. She also presides over many other legal matters, including adoptions, some competency proceedings, condemnation of private lands for public use, and foreclosures. She is also responsible for all clerical and record-keeping functions of the district and superior court. In addition, the clerk's office receives and disburses money collected each year from court fees and fines.
Cannon has performed every duty in the office since she began with the clerk’s office 37 years ago. She ran unopposed in the last election, in 2010. Seems no one wants a job for which the state legislature keeps adds more responsibilities while providing less money for staffing, equipment and other needs against ever increasing case loads.
Her tireless work ethic and passion does not go unnoticed by judges, including Bob Ervin, the district's senior resident Superior Court judge since 2003.
“She’s an extremely effective clerk of court,” Ervin said. “She’s always on top of the action in the clerk’s office. She’s very conscientious about following the law.
“Her attention to detail is phenomenal. I’m very comfortable relying on her. She is an extremely capable clerk of court and is recognized throughout the state. I will miss her badly.”
Cannon takes pains to make sure her staff treats everyone who walks into the courtroom with respect and dignity.
“It could be your child or your parent,” Cannon said. “I insist upon it. I run a tight ship.”
Cannon’s term was to expire in 2014. Her replacement will be appointed at a later date.
Word of her pending retirement had been circulating for weeks. Soon it will be official.
“She’s the best, we’re really going to miss her,” said Janet Carver, clerk since 1999. “She always has an answer. The county’s going to lose a wonderful person. Whoever takes over will have big shoes to fill.”