For Kathy Reynolds and the Chaves County Magistrate Court, Friday marked the end of one age and the beginning of another.
Reynolds — who has supervised personnel, assisted nine judges and helped guide thousands of cases through the legal pipeline as a clerk and eventually as court manager — retired Friday.
As she sat at a small going-away party with her colleagues, Reynolds said she had mixed feelings about leaving her job as court manager for the life of a retiree.
“It’s really kind of a challenge to leave,” Reynolds said, as she sat with her colleagues, enjoying punch, cookies and cake. “I am ready to start a new chapter in my life, but I don’t know how I will function every day without coming here.”
Magistrate Court Judges Keith “K.C.” Rogers and E.J. Fouratt demonstrated their gratitude for Reynolds’ years of service by presenting her with a framed certificate of appreciation from the New Mexico Supreme Court. Her colleagues stood nearby holding up their smartphones to snap photos and record the moment on video.
“More years than some people have been alive, she has been with us,” Rogers said. “Our court has always set the standard for other courts and Kathy is one of the reasons that we do that.”
“I don’t know what we are going to do without you,” he added.
Reynolds, a Kansas native, was born and lived in Kansas until 1988 when she says that life took her to Roswell. Since she started work at the court as an entry-level clerk in 1992, Reynolds and the smooth operation of the court’s office have been intertwined. She took time off between 1995 and 1997 after the birth of her youngest son, but later returned to the court.
Throughout her tenure, the court and the courthouse have undergone a series of changes ranging from new administrative policies to the installation of metal detectors and other security measures and changes in technology.
“When I first started, we had typewriters and triplicate forms,” Reynolds said. “We didn’t have any computers at all.”
The court made a big leap into the modern age in 1995 when it received its first computers. Reynolds said for her and other employees, the arrival of the computers was a milestone.
“It was exciting because we knew that we were finally moving into the technology age and being able to do our work more efficiently,” Reynolds said.
The manager is a crucial part of the court, especially in helping judges with the administrative rules of the court.
“You come in and the first person you look to give you direction is the court manager,” he said.
Rogers had known Reynolds for years before he became a judge, both being members of the Tabernacle Baptist Church. From the beginning, he knew he could count on Reynolds.
“I knew that I could trust her to lead me in the right direction and not to give me bad information, and to stop me from signing something I shouldn’t,” he said.
Even after years of experience as a judge, Rogers said he still routinely consults Reynolds about administrative matters.
As manager, Reynolds is tasked with a wide range of duties from data entry, writing up new cases from citations, criminal complaints and civil cases. Her office is also in charge of monitoring cases as they make their way through the system, accepting fines and fees for misdemeanor cases and helping the public fill out paperwork and file forms.
She is also in charge of personnel in the office and often times making sure the court’s computers are work properly.
“The job is not for everybody and requires someone who can multitask and is able to keep things moving even in the face of obstacles, such as when internet service is disrupted,” Reynolds said.
Although at times it can be stressful, the diversity of tasks and challenges that come with the job is what Reynolds said she likes most.
“Every day has its new challenge,” she said. “That is what I love about this job — you never know what is going to happen and we always have to be prepared for what will happen.”
The job has always had its challenges, Reynolds said. As court manager, it is up to her to handle disciplinary actions and conflicts within the office.
“That is not much fun, but we just have to work through it,” she said.
Other obligations that come with the job are maintaining the confidentiality of cases she learns about in the court.
Reynolds said there have been times and high-profile cases where people have come to her asking about certain cases. Staying silent about those cases is not always easy but she said is a necessary part of the job.
“You just have to tell them, ‘Sorry, I can’t disclose that to you,’” Reynolds said.
As the court manager, Reynolds said she and other clerks often have to work directly with the public.
Working with the public has at times required a great deal of patience. Reynolds said most people who come to the court are there because they broke the law or are in some frustrating situation.
She said sometimes just listening to someone who is irate and frustrated can help them out a lot.
“If you let them vent and get that weight out and off their shoulders, I think it helps,” Reynolds said.
Courts throughout the state often look to the Chaves County Magistrate Court for advice on how to make their courts run better. Part of the reason the court is so successful, she said, is because people who work in the court work together.
“We are all a team and our team works together well,” she said.
Reynolds said other things that help the court run smoothly is that people who work there tend to work at the court for many years. Unlike some courts, the Chaves County Magistrate court also cross-trains its employees so they can perform multiple tasks throughout the office to meet different needs as they arise.
One of the biggest misconceptions the public has about the court, Reynolds says is that it is a lax work environment.
“We are so very busy every day. We are never caught up on our work,” she said.
After Friday, the duties of the job will no longer be something Reynolds has to worry about. She said she will kick off her retirement by heading down to Florida to visit her daughter and grandchildren. She added that she will likely move out of Roswell, but does not yet know when or what her destination will be.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.