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By SHARON GRAVES
When Marketta Brock retires on July 31, an era will close on the father/daughter team who have kept the records of Carroll County for more than 30 years.
Brock grew up following her father, John Tilley, around the courthouse. Tilley entered public service first as county sheriff, then as judge-executive and later replaced Elmo Stark as county clerk in 1977.
Brock said she played “office” in the courthouse as a child when she came with her father when he was judge. “I used to love to go up to the old courtroom and try to get up enough courage to sit in the judge’s chair when no one was there,” she admitted. “I even slid down the banister.”
She went to work for her father Dec. 1, 1977, when his term as clerk began.
“I excpected her to work like everyone else, and she did an excellent job,” Tilley said, recalling the time they worked together.
“I always called my dad John at work because I didn’t want people to think I got the job just because I was his daughter,” Brock said.
Brock said she learned the ropes from long-time staffer Minnie Dufore, who began training her on her first day. Dufore taught her about receipts and expenditures and how to lodge, or record, real-estate transactions, marriage records and other documents handled by the clerk’s office.
It was a lot to learn. “I went home and dreamed of license plates and papers flying at me,” Brock recalls.
In the days before computers, Brock said the clerk’s office had “a monster machine that was an actual photo copier. You would have to put chemicals and water in the machine to make a copy.
“That’s why many older records have white letters on black paper. It actually made a negative copy of any record it copied,” she said. “My dad always handled the chemicals, and we only made copies once a week or so, because once you opened the chemicals, they wouldn’t last long.”
“My dad and I got along at work, but whenever there was a disagreement on how we should do something he would say, ‘When you’re the boss you can do it how you want,’” she said.
When Tilley decided not to run for re-election in 1993, Brock decided to run for her father’s office. She was elected and became the boss in January 1994.
In the 14 years since, she said many things have changed in the clerk’s office: the use of computers, licensing boats, attaching property taxes to vehicle registration and the many aspects of voting.
“If it wasn’t for the way they configure retirement, and the election-law changes, I wouldn’t be retiring,” Brock said.
After this year, the state will implement a system to calculate retirement pay based on an employee’s last five years’ salary, rather than on the last three years’ salary, meaning retirement benefits likely will be lower. Many long-time state employees decided to retire this year because of those changes, including the top three administrators at Carroll County Schools and many teachers.
Brock said the changes in election laws over the past few years also have helped her with her decision. More changes include requiring county clerks to have a handwritten plan on how to handle the county’s voting machines and paperwork during an election in the event of a tornado or other catastrophe.
Additionally, the county clerk is responsible for the safety and security of all of the county’s 11 voting machines, even though she has no control over their storage, Brock said. The machines are stored in a locked room at the Courthouse, but many people have a key, she said.
“Every time you turn around they [state officials] are adding a new thing,” Brock said.
At 50, Brock said she is in good health and has a lot of plans for her retirement, including helping her children with yard work and helping to raise her six grandchildren. She said she also plans to visit her own grandmother more often, and devote more time to the Ghent Fire Protection District. Brock has been a volunteer with the Ghent department for four years and attends training meetings there every Tuesday night.
“People work until they are too tired and can’t enjoy [their retirement],” Brock said . “I don’t want to be one of those people.”
But, the decision was bittersweet. “I hate leaving mid-term because the people of this county have been so kind to me, my father, and my family,” she said. “I have met some wonderful people and made so many friends.”
Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson praised Brock. “Marketta has done a good job, and she has served the public well.”