Sims set to retire as court clerk in Warren County

Warren County Circuit Court clerk Jennifer Sims works on a computer terminal in the records room inside the courthouse. Sims will retire at the end of this year and Daryl L. Funk will assume her post Jan. 1.  Rich Cooley/Daily

Warren County Circuit Court clerk Jennifer Sims works on a computer terminal in the records room inside the courthouse. Sims will retire at the end of this year and Daryl L. Funk will assume her post Jan. 1. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County Circuit Court Clerk Jennifer Sims takes decades of experience when she retires this month.

Sims also steps down as clerk after two terms, making way for her successor, local attorney and Front Royal Town Councilman Daryl Funk.

But Sims says she doesn’t expect to disappear into retirement.

“I just can’t drop off the face of the Earth,” Sims said recently. “I don’t want to.”

“This has been a very good fit for me,” Sims added. “I’ve really enjoyed working and maintaining the records for the county and meeting the public.”

Sims, 68, started working in the office almost 49 years ago. She admitted that even with advances in technology the work doesn’t require as much education as other jobs. Rather, the work involves more on-the-job training.

“It’s nice if you have some legal background because everything you do in here is mandated by the code of Virginia,” Sims said.

Asked why she would work nearly five decades in the office, or spend two terms as clerk, Sims said she wanted to finish her 8-year term rather than retire midway through.

“I wasn’t doing it for the money; I was doing it for the citizens of Warren County,” Sims said. “I was raised on a farm and we were responsible for things and I just feel like that this was a responsibility for me to my constituents who voted me in here.

“I wasn’t ready four years ago,” Sims added. “I wasn’t ready eight years ago. I’ve been ready now.”

Sims said she expects to spend more time with her husband Charles and their children and grandchildren. Sims has sisters and brothers who also live in county.

“I know that they’ve sacrificed because of the hours I keep here,” Sims said.

Born and raised in the county, Sims attended a year at a business school in Richmond before coming back to work at the courthouse. In 1966, a woman in the community in which she grew up worked in the circuit court and, when the office needed to fill a vacancy, asked then Judge Elliot Marshall if she could hire Sims. The woman came to her house and offered her the job, Sims recalled. Sims started working in the office full time in February 1967.

“The only attribute that I had when I started working here is I knew how to type and I was good with math,” Sims said.

Sims worked under clerk Edward Matthews who served until he retired in 1979. Bill Hall served as clerk from 1980 through 2002 and retired midway through his last term. Sims won in the seat in a special election in 2003, beating out then clerk of the general district court Debra Bull who now works in the position in the Winchester-Frederick County General District Court. Sims ran unopposed in 2007.

The office has seven full-time and two part-time employees compared to about half that number when Sims began working in the courthouse. But Sims had good reason to add the second, part-time position: Four other longtime workers plan to retire at the end of the year. The circuit court will lose more than 130 years of total institutional knowledge and experience when Sims and the veterans retire.

“It’s going to be a huge transition for the new clerk,” Sims said.

Funk has been in the clerk’s office learning the tasks of the job.

Sims said she’s also enjoyed working for the judges in the courtrooms. That work often involved taking notes, managing juries for trials and other tasks. While the work remains the same, Sims said the people she meets change.

“There’s always somebody that has an issue,” Sims said. “I don’t care whether it’s big or small – we should be here to assist the public in any way, any procedure they need.”

The office also has to help people settle the affairs and estates of deceased family members, Sims noted.

The office technology has advanced since the 1960s. Sims said this likely means more work for the office.

“Over the years, yeah, technology has made things easier and more accessible,” Sims said. “But I think it’s also generated more reporting that they want you to be responsible for.”

In the past, Sims said she and her clerks often had more time to talk with the public. However, more work means less time to spend with patrons. Likewise, the frequent users of the courts, especially attorneys, don’t have as much spare time.

“That’s one of the things I miss is being able to sit down and have a conversation with a person that has nothing to do with their issues,” Sims said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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