Marsha Johnson’s retirement — effective Monday — marks the end of a great public-service career.
As Harnett County’s clerk of court, Mrs. Johnson and her staff oversee the handling and integrity of virtually every piece of paper flowing into and out of the courthouse.
“The office itself represents the hub of the judicial system in Harnett County,” she told The Daily Record last month.
Mrs. Johnson joined the clerk’s office in 2000 after spending the early part of her career at what is now Pope Law Group in Dunn.
In 2011, then-Resident Superior Court Judge Franklin Lanier appointed her to her current post.
“When the prior clerk retired I felt that it was something I could do,” she said. “I wanted the job bad enough to go through the politics. That’s a job in itself, it really is, but it’s worth it.”
And she handled the politics well, easily winning reelection three times. Twice she was unopposed, demonstrating the confidence fellow citizens, including those in the legal community, had in the job she was doing.
Here’s what attorney Tilghman Pope of Pope Law Group said: “I have appeared before and worked with clerks of court in multiple counties and can proudly say that Harnett County, through the leadership of Marsha Johnson, has the best clerk’s office that I have ever worked with. On many occasions I have had attorneys from other counties to complement the competency and professionalism of Marsha Johnson and all of her staff.”
So while her departure is a loss for the county, she has well earned her retirement.
“I’ve really enjoyed being here and working for the people in the county,” she said. “But during the time I have been clerk, I’ve had five grandchildren born and I want to spend some time with them and my family. I’ve got some things that I want to do and it’s just a good time.”
Mrs. Johnson used her post to make a big advance in how the courts serve our veterans. She was instrumental in forming the District 11A Veterans Treatment Court, which has earned national and international recognition since its inception.
This is a sentencing court for honorably discharged veterans convicted of relatively minor nonviolent offenses. It helps veterans who have had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. And it was a passion of Mrs. Johnson, then-District Attorney Vernon Stewart and then-Chief District Court Judge Andy Corbett.
“It was a total team effort,” she said. “It’s the first of its kind in North Carolina and that has been probably one of the highlights. … I hope it continues well past my leaving.”
The court reports very low recidivism rates and Mrs. Johnson credits that to the willingness of the veterans to get better and seek help.
“From the very first one you see, and know what they looked like when they first came into the court, and then you see what they look like and how they are and how their life has changed when they’re going out, it’s a very positive thing,” she said. “You don’t see that in court. It is a much different court than what we’re accustomed to, but it’s very rewarding because you can actually see that what you’ve done made a difference.”
And Mrs. Johnson has done an excellent job leading the 26 staffers in her department.
“She is easy to get along with,” said Carmilla Tucker, an assistant clerk of the superior court. “She knows how to evaluate situations to get to the truth of it instead of just flying off the handle and reacting. She’s a thinker and a planner.”
Clearly, that leadership has served Harnett well. We congratulate her on a great career.