Decades of service to the county

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, March 13, 2008

For more than 35 years one dedicated county employee has been filing tax sales, land rolls and a number of other official documents in the Chancery Court Clerk’s office.

Ruth Stockstill, a 37 year veteran of the office, began her career with the county in 1971 and has been there ever since. Due to her years of experience most questions relating to the office are directed to her, from customers and employees alike.

Stockstill began her career in January of 1971 when she assisted her ex-father-in law in re-registering all county voters. A county wide re-districting of all the polling places that year prompted that effort, Stockstill said. While that job was not official county employment it did afford her the opportunity to apply for an opening in the Chancery Court Clerk’s office. She applied, got the job and has been there ever since.

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Stockstill’s job entails scanning land records, answering the phone, making copies of land records, handling tax sales and answering questions concerning matters in the office.

Over her many years working in the Chancery Clerk’s office, Stockstill has witnessed a number of changes. Most of them deal with the technology used in the office, effectively changing the way paper work is handled. She has also witnessed some structural changes to the courthouse, which caused more harm than good.

When she started working there in April of 1971, there was only one electric type writer in the whole office, which was reserved for the bookkeeper. Everyone else, including Stockstill, used manual type writers and tax receipts were handwritten. Shortly after a former chancery clerk retired from office there was an upgrade.

“During that time we discovered there were such things as electric typewriters,” Stockstill said.

In the early 1990’s computers were brought into the office, which allow her to do what three to four employees used to do. Since the assimilation of computers into the office tax receipts are no longer hand written.

Even though Stockstill lists the computers as one of her favorite aspects of her job, she does not own a computer.

“I get enough of it here every day,” Stockstill said.

In March of last year the office began using scanners to electronically file tax records.

Over the years the growing population has caused the staff in the Chancery Clerk’s office to grow as well. When she started Stockstill said there were about four people in the office, two did only bookkeeping. Now there are 10 to 12 people employed with the office doing the same jobs.

“It’s just increased dramatically since I started working here, especially since Katrina,” Stockstill said.

The thing she likes most about her job, even more than the computers, is the camaraderie she and her coworkers share.

“I enjoy that more than any other part of it,” Stockstill said.

During her 37 years at the office she said there has never been a time that everyone did not get along.

One aspect of her job she is not happy with concerns the conditions of the building she works in, the Poplarville courthouse. In the past there were a number of problems with the roof leaking, damaging the walls inside the building. Those problems began in 1974 with the construction of an addition to the building, Stockstill said. Since that time the roof has leaked in the area of the addition and damaged the walls. Last year the previous board conducted repair work to the courthouse roof, which she says has appeared to have stopped the leaks. The damaged walls were also repaired.

Her only other complaint deals with office cleanliness. She would like to see the county switch to a cleaning service instead of using jail trustees.

“That’s been the worst part, having to work with the mess and dust and dirt all this time,” Stockstill said.

In her 37 years she has worked for three chancery clerks. She worked under E. L. Robbins for nine years after she started. When Robbins retired D.R. Davis took office for 20 years before retiring for health reasons. Currently she works for Chancery Clerk David Earl Johnson.

Given her experience in the office most questions in the office are answered by her, either directly or indirectly, Stockstill said. However if those questions pertain to complicated or legal matters she still suggests customers see a lawyer. Even employees ask her questions pertaining to the job place, especially those who are relatively new to the office.

Stockstill has no plans of retiring from her job. Since her husband retired from his job, she said the insurance with the county is good and is needed.

“I don’t know that I’d like to… quit. That would about drive me crazy,” Stockstill said.

There’s only one way she sees herself retiring.

“Not unless my ship comes in, but I think it sank at the dock,” Stockstill said.