By STEVEN NALLEY
There was a candle at the center of the table where new and re-elected county officials were sworn in Thursday at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse Annex.
Angie McGinnis, retiring circuit clerk, said the candle stood in memory of Jimmy Shurden, who served as District 1 Constable until his death April 19.
“That candle is burning today here for Jimmy because I know his spirit is here with us this morning,” McGinnis said. “(I) just wanted to let that family know that we’re continuing to hold them in our prayers.”
Shurden was one of several officials McGinnis paid tribute to during the course of Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony, where she also received tribute for her 16 years of service as circuit clerk.
Nineteen county officials were sworn in, and several of them, including new Circuit Clerk Glenn Hamilton, Sheriff Steve Gladney and all the county supervisors, constables and justice court judges, brought members of their family and other guests to the stand with them. The guests held Bibles on which their respective elected officials each placed a hand as they took their oaths of office.
Circuit Judge Lee Howard and Chancery Judge Dorothy Colom administered the oaths. When introducing Lee Howard, McGinnis became emotional.
“I have served alongside this man since 1989,” McGinnis said. “He is a very honorable man and he has meant the world to me. We’ve worked together for so long. I probably know what he’s going to say next and he probably knows what I’m going to do next.”
McGinnis also asked those in attendance who work for Oktibbeha County or other governmental bodies to stand up and be recognized. She also recognized several who were not in attendance, including her predecessor Miriam Cook, to whom she referred as her mentor.
Once all the officials were sworn in, re-elected Chancery Clerk Monica Banks took the opportunity to thank attendees. The courtroom was crowded enough for county officials to bring in extra chairs, and even then many attendees were left with no seats.
Banks also took the opportunity to thank former Tax Collector Patricia Kight, who resigned in November to allow a smoother transition for incoming Tax Collector Allen Morgan. Banks said Kight was absent from the ceremony for health reasons.
“I hope that we will all continue to keep Ms. Kight in our prayers because she’s not doing well and she’s been sick for the past few years as well,” Banks said. “Let us not forget her and the service she has rendered to the county during her best days.”
Finally, Banks paid tribute to McGinnis. Among other achievements, Banks said McGinnis has helped the county transition from ink and paper to digital records and made the election process more precise and efficient.
“I’ve got to tell her in front of all these witnesses what a magnificent job she has done for Oktibbeha County,” Banks said, triggering applause. “We were elected in 1995 together, and I thought that we would leave here together, but for 16 years we have held hands across the way, circuit and chancery. On behalf of all of your friends in county government, we love you and we are truly going to miss you because you have always set the barometer for perfection in doing the job.”
McGinnis said she was grateful for Banks’ kind words, and she thanked the staff with whom she has worked over the years for their help and cooperation.
“I can honestly say that as I have served this county, across the state, I have heard many circuit clerks gripe about their relationships with their chancery clerk or their board of supervisors or their tax assessor or whatever,” McGinnis said. “I can say with all real certainty that I have enjoyed a very good relationship with all of my fellow clerks and boards of supervisors and I appreciate that very much.”
McGinnis also congratulated the elected officials and offered them advice.
“I want to tell you to always remember the office you hold does not belong to you,” McGinnis said. “It belongs to the people of Oktibbeha County that voted you in. Always do your best in a personal and professional manner. If you’ll do that, you’ll enjoy many years as a public servant. There was something I always heeded in my heart, that I remembered, and that was to treat everybody the way I wanted to be treated. I hope you’ve got that in your heart already.”