By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
Like a grown man who never let go of his favorite pair of Chuck Taylors, so Vicki Kelley doesn’t want to let go of her 22 years working at Clovis Municipal Court.
The municipal court administrator describes herself as the “old shoe that never wears out” — and she’d like to keep it that way.
As would Municipal Judge Jan Garrett, who on Tuesday described Kelley as meticulous, organized and a great help.
Thanks to a glowing written recommendation from Garrett, the New Mexico Association of Municipal Court Clerks named Kelley “Court Clerk of the Year” during its annual meeting June 21-22 in Ruidoso.
There are over 50 municipal courts in New Mexico.
“When I first started, I never thought I’d be here 22 years … but it’s really where my heart is, because I love what I do,” Kelley said. “Everybody’s changed. I’m kind of like the old chair that stays here and never moves.”
Kelley finished second to Garrett in a 10-candidate race for municipal judge in March 2002, setting the scene for what could have been an awkward situation for the two coworkers.
In her recommendation letter, Garrett expressed her initial nervousness about working with Kelley, only to squash that feeling after day one.
“From the first day, she has been helpful, encouraging, supportive and has made what could have been a very uncomfortable situation pleasant,” Garrett wrote in her recommendation letter.
Shortly thereafter, Garrett successfully lobbied the Clovis City Commission to appoint Kelley to the alternate judge position.
As alternate judge, Kelley sits on the bench when Garrett is out of town, sick or when the judge decides to recuse herself from a case.
Kelley said she likes working on the bench, but would never run against Garrett or any judge who is running for re-election for the municipal judge’s seat.
Garrett said Kelley earned the clerk of the year title because of her community service, work ethic, long-time commitment to the court and involvement in state court associations.
“I felt she was a worthy candidate,” Garrett said. “I’m very pleased for Vicki, she’s been a great help to me.”
For Kelley, it’s the people she deals with every day and her time training new employees in area municipal courts that makes her job great.
“I love training people, and explaining to them (why we do things); that’s probably my favorite part,” Kelley said.