Tollett relies on 80 years of family service to the courts

June 9 – When Ben Tollett repeated the oath of office at his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, he seeks to continue 80 years of public service in the Cumberland County court system in the tradition of his grandmother and of his great-grandfather.

“It’s something I’ve looked forward to all my life, something I’ve worked to prepare for,” Tollett told family and friends who gathered to celebrate the occasion.

Chancellor Ron Thurman, who appointed Tollett to the vacancy created by the retirement of Sue Tollett, who served as a clerk and master for around 38 years, kept his comments simple and more direct.

“You gotta get one of those bracelets…WWSD…that Sue would do,” Thurman said. “If you follow his advice, you’ll be fine.”

Tollett had plenty of experience to draw on. His great-grandfather, Charles Phipps, began working for Cumberland County in an office then titled “Records Clerk”. He then ran for clerk of the courts and served one term before being appointed clerk and master, a position he held until his retirement in 1984.

Phipps’ daughter, Sue Tollett, was appointed by Chancellor Vernon Neal to the post and held the post until June 1, when, at the end of the day, her retirement became effective.

Family and friends gathered in one of the Justice Center courtrooms for the swearing-in ceremony and a few words from the Chancellor and the new Clerk and Master. Many recorded the event with cellphones and cameras.

Clerk and Master is an appointed position and the appointee serves at the pleasure of the Presiding Chancellor and is appointed for a six-year term.

The Clerk and Master and his office are responsible for keeping records, filing and seizing documents, pleadings, documents and exhibits, investing funds, attending hearings, keeping court records, administering oaths, issuing subpoenas, writs, executions, subpoenas, preparing for court records and collects revenue.

On occasion, the clerk and master holds hearings.

“Thank goodness that didn’t happen much,” Sue Tollett said of the office’s duties. When the Clerk and Master hold hearings, what is said is recorded and a written report is sent to the Chancellor for review and formal decision.

Some lawsuits are also filed at the office, but after lengthy negotiations the opposing parties generally reach out-of-court settlements which are filed at the office.

Many services are similar to those provided by the Office of the Clerk of Court and the Office of the Court of General Sessions, so the three work closely together.

Thurman said the office is in good hands with the appointment of Ben Tollett. After all, help is just a phone call away.

Michael Moser can be contacted at [email protected]

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