Betty Gould recently announced that she’ll retire from her post as Thurston County Superior Court clerk in December, at the end of her elected term.
“I just feel the time is right, and I feel totally comfortable,” said Gould, 71, of Lacey. “I’ve loved this job.”
Gould took office Jan. 7, 1991, and holds the record for the longest continuous service as clerk in the county’s history.
“Thurston County is going to have a huge hole,” said District Court administrator Theresa Ewing. “And whoever fills her shoes is going to have a very big legacy to come behind.”
Gould said technology has brought some of the biggest changes she’s seen during her tenure.
When she first took office, she shared the office’s one computer with another staff member. Most of the information was recorded with typewriters or handwriting back then.
These days, Gould’s office is paperless, and judges, clerks, attorneys and the public can access court documents electronically.
“That has really saved us staff time so they could get to other duties,” Gould said.
She said one of the projects she’s most proud of is the preservation of the county’s historic legal records — many of which were penned in calligraphy and date back to 1847, more than 40 years before Washington was granted statehood.
Gould hired a vendor to scan and create electronic images of each document. After three years, about 17 million paper pages had been converted to electronic files, she said.
“We can’t lose that (information) for our citizens and our kids,” Gould said.
Another project Gould said she’s proud of is an off-site kiosk where victims of domestic violence can apply for protection orders without waiting in long lines at the courthouse.
The kiosk is at the Family Support Center in Olympia, which provides child care for victims while they use the kiosk. Gould hopes to expand the program to other locations in the county.
“It’s kind of taking the clerk’s office and making it community-based, which is great,” said Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center. “Betty’s just been a huge champion for victims of domestic violence.”
Gould said budget cuts have been one of the biggest challenges of the job.
Another job requirement has weighed heavily on her heart over the years: “I’ve had to sign two death warrants,” she said. “And that was the hardest thing.”
Besides signing the paperwork that puts an inmate on death row, county clerks are among the officials required to stay on the phone during an execution, she added.
Gould said she’s looking forward to having more time to work in her yard and to travel. She’s worked since she was 12 and was a paralegal for 25 years before election to the clerk’s office.
Her husband of 53 years, Mike, is already retired, and they are also looking forward to spending more time with their four adult children and nine grandchildren, she said.