Clerk of court, sheriff duties explained
Published 11:25 am Friday, April 29, 2022
As election season draws closer, a Stanly News & Press reader recently contacted the SNAP, wanting to know about the specific duties the Sheriff and Clerk of Superior Court carry out. While some of the responsibilities are fairly obvious, the sheriff oversees the jail, for example, while the clerk oversees the courthouse, some are less so.
To learn more about each position, the SNAP talked with two knowledgable officials, Capt. Chris Huneycutt, who heads criminal investigations at the Sheriff’s Office, and Michael Huneycutt, the current clerk of court who is stepping down after this year.
The chief law enforcement officer
Jeff Crisco, the current sheriff, is considered the “chief law enforcement officer in the county,” according to Huneycutt. As such, he coordinates and works with local law enforcement in crime prevention, detection and investigative activities.
Among the many responsibilities, the sheriff oversees the security of the courthouse, the functioning of the jail, including the transfer of inmates to other counties across the state, and the roughly 120 Stanly County Sheriff’s Office employees, including school resource officers.
The Sheriff’s Office also provides services to New London, Red Cross and Richfield, where it has satellite offices. Off-duty officers spend time patrolling Red Cross and New London while two officers are assigned full-time to Richfield, Huneycutt said.
As of November 2020, the Sheriff’s Office also took on oversight of Stanly County Animal Protective Services.
The qualifications for sheriff do not require candidates to have law enforcement backgrounds, though most do. Crisco, for instance, previously had 18 years of experience, having worked for the sheriff’s office and police departments at Albemarle, Locust, Stanfield and Oakboro. His opponent in 2018, Oscar Banks Hinson Jr., had no law enforcement experience.
To run for sheriff, which is a four-year position, candidates must be at least 21, registered voters, have lived in Stanly County for at least a year prior to November election and have no felony convictions.
Crisco, a Republican, is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Davara Ponds in November.
Overseer of the courthouse
Michael Huneycutt is nearing the end of his fourth term as clerk of court, a position he’s held since 2007. He is not seeking reelection.
In an interview with the SNAP, Huneycutt, in describing his position, explained that it’s all about overseeing the day-to-day operations of the courthouse, from making sure the court docket is set each day to filing all public records including lawsuits, civil actions, criminal proceedings to looking after the 19 employees that fall under his purview.
“I am the manager,” he said. “This job is about 60 to 70 percent management and the other part of it is knowing the state statutes.”
In addition to the functions of administrator and record keeper, Huneycutt is also a judge as he has exclusive original jurisdiction over matters such as the probate of wills and the administration of estates. He also can hold a jury trial when it comes to competency proceedings.
Similar to sheriff, to run for clerk of court, which is also a four-year position, candidates must be registered voters and at least 21 years of age. No prior legal background is necessary to run for the office; Huneycutt, for example, was a teacher for many years before he became clerk. He has since taken classes to learn the legal aspects of the job.
Huneycutt noted that through his experience, the best attributes a clerk of court can possess are good leaderships skills, including knowing how to manage other people, the ability to listen and the ability to exhibit integrity and good character.
Four candidates have filed to replace Huneycutt: Republicans Pam Blake, Michael Greene and Ginger Efird, who face off in the May 17 primary, and Democrat Todd Lowder.
Important primary season dates
Applications are available at the following locations: Board of Elections Office, Stanly County high schools, Employment Security Commission, Stanly County libraries, Department of Social Services, military recruitment offices, Health Department (WIC office), DMV (in-person or on-line), town halls or online at votestanlycountync.gov/register.
One-stop early voting begins April 28 and runs through May 14 at the Stanly County Commons and the Locust Town Center (Joel Huneycutt Community Room).
For people wanting to vote who will not be in the county, they can request an absentee ballot by going to the Board of Elections Office. Absentee voting by mail will run through May 10.
The general election will be Nov. 8.