High Country Press has interviewed each candidate and here is our conversation with Teresa Benfield that includes ten questions and her answers to each, sharing her personal and professional backgrounds and telling Avery’s voters why they should vote for her.
High Country Press (HCP): What is your personal background?
Benfield: I was married to the late Wayne Benfield. I am the daughter of Roy and the late Naomi Ingram of Crossword, NC. I was born and raised in Avery County in the Plumtree Creek area. I have six children and 15 grandchildren. I am an active member at Victory Missionary Baptist Church, off Squirrel Creek Road.
HCP: What is your professional background?
Benfield: I have worked in the Avery County Clerk of Superior Court Office for 19-plus years after working in the Clerk’s office for six years. I became the Assistant Clerk for 13 years. I am now the Interim Clerk of Superior Court.
HCP: Why are you running to be Avery County Clerk of Superior Court?
Benfield: I’m a candidate for several reasons. I have learned the job and how the office operate. I enjoy serving the people of Avery County and I get to meet so many wonderful people. I have compassion for people and I want to continue serving and helping through the clerk’s office.
HCP: You have served in several roles for many years in the Avery Clerk of Court’s office—what have those roles been?
Benfield: I performed and learned several roles since I started in April 2000 as the small claims clerk, juvenile clerk, jury clerk and microfilm clerk. In 2006 I was promoted to Assistant Clerk and took over being the probate judge for estates and guardianships, special proceedings to include foreclosures, incompetence hearings, commitment, civil district clerk, as civil suits district and superior, divorce, custody, criminal clerk, taking tickets fees record checks, waiver of extradition hearing and many other civil clerk duties.
HCP: What have been your specific duties in each job you have had in the Clerk of Court’s office?
Benfield: Some of my specific duties of the clerk in juvenile department include filing new cases, issuing notices and working court in the courtroom. As jury clerk, my duties include the process of pulling a jury and sending out the notices after a jury trial. That includes entering jurors who were excused to those who served and paying them. Also, small claims include actions from filing the complaint, services and the judgment after the hearing by a magistrate. As Microfilm clerk, I make sure all microfilming is done and any needed corrections are made.
And as Probate Judge, duties are the opening of an estate whether it is a Probate or Administration from origin of the case to the closing of the case. In guardianships, those duties are determining guardians of incompetent adults or of minors from the start to the closing of the case. In Special Proceedings, I deal with foreclosures from the initial filing of the case to the hearing and sale of property. Also, in Incompetence hearings duties include hearing for adults from filing of the case to the order entered. I also work with Commitment Hearings. In Civil District Cases, I work with law suits for debt or negligence or divorces, from the filing of the complaint to the case heard and disposed of in court. I’ve also done Divorce proceedings and custody and support cases. Additionally, my work consists of Criminal process from continuances to paying the ticket, also recording checks for the county and waivers of extraditions. And lastly, but also of importance is handling the budget for the court house facilities such as equipment and supplies.
HCP: You have been the Interim Clerk of Court for the past few months following the retirement of long-time Court Clerk Lisa Daniels. What was the process of you being appointed to fill the post until the county’s voters decide who will fill the post for at least the next four years?
Benfield: Upon the Retirement of Clerk of Court Lisa Daniels, Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus appoints someone to be the Interim Clerk. On Lisa Daniels’ recommendation, Judge Gavenus appointed me as the Interim until the voters of Avery County elects the next Clerk of Court.
HCP: What are the most noted changes in the operation of a Clerk of Court’s office since you first started working in the Avery office?
Benfield: The technology has changed quite a bit. With internet it makes things easier by being able to send a lot of things through emails, creating data bases to hold case information, pull up files and cases quick and easy etc. Also, it requires no more typing all the judgments in the big books and freeing up your time to do lots more work.
HCP: How do you define a good and successful Clerk of Court?
Benfield: One who is willing to go the extra mile and help people. A Clerk’s staff must have compassion and patience for the people who walk through the doors of the court house. And a Clerk’s office should be run with honesty and integrity with a smile and concern for the problems people have.
HCP: If elected, what can Avery County’s Residents and others who have business with the Clerk of Court’s office expect under your direction?
Benfield: I will give the people of Avery County the service and devotion that is expected from the clerk’s office in a professional and courtesy manner the way that Lisa Daniels ran the office for 13 years. I will run it with the same compassion, patience, honesty and integrity as she did and expected my staff to do the same. I will continue to provide the service needed for their situation. And records that are required by this office for the judicial system will be kept in an orderly fashion. No matter my role in the clerk’s office my door is and will be open to anyone who needs help or has any questions.
HCP: Do you wish to add any additional comments?
Benfield: I have served the people of Avery County with joy. My prayer is that I can continue to serve Avery Countians for many years to come as their Clerk of Superior Court.