Childhood dream becomes real

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

MURFREESBORO – Most can recall a time during their childhood pondering what they wanted to be when they grew up.

A fireman…a police officer…a veterinarian…an actress—all the typical answers come to mind. But for Murfreesboro Town Clerk Joleatha Chestnutt, “typical” didn’t fit.

When she was a child, Chestnutt paraded around her parents’ home in Gates County flaunting a briefcase, counting fake money, answering her telephone and operating her “office.”

Little did she know then, that make believe office world she created would become reality and even make Murfreesboro history.

Recently Chestnutt officially stepped into the role of Murfreesboro Town Clerk, becoming the first black to hold the position.

Chestnutt, who resides in Ahoskie with her husband, John, and daughter, Alexis, first came on board with the town in 2006 as a deputy clerk and took on town clerk duties in October after the former town clerk left. The Murfreesboro Town Council approved her promotion in December.

Chestnutt’s love of the “office life” began in childhood and she assumed it began while watching soap operas with her mom.

“Everyone was either a CEO or working in an office (on the soap operas),” she said.

After graduating from Gates County High School, Chestnutt attended Roanoke Chowan Community College where she earned an associate’s degree in office system technology.

Her first office job was with Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA); later she became an executive assistant at Hertford County Partnership for Children, a position she held until she became deputy clerk with the town of Murfreesboro.

“I love paperwork, working with numbers,” she said. “It’s the dream come to fruitation.”

Chestnutt takes her position as Town Clerk seriously, describing the role as a “great responsibility” in keeping all town records and acting as a representative for the town as she greets and assists town citizens at the Town Hall.

“The town clerk is going to make the first impression,” she said.

Among the inspirations Chestnutt has depended on are her faith, family and a few close friends.

She said one of the best pieces of advice she received was from the late Senator Rev. Robert Holloman. Chestnutt is a member of Nebo Baptist Church near Murfreesboro, where for a time; she was also Holloman’s administrative assistant at the church. She is still involved with Nebo as member and youth leader.

“He was my friend, my pastor, my senator,” she recalled about Holloman. “He said, ‘You’re going to go through a lot of trials, you’ve got to stand’.”

Chestnutt still considers Holloman as a role model as well as his wife, Velma, who encouraged Chestnutt to become a certified clerk to be a better asset to the town. It’s a task she will take on next year as she will take classes through UNC School of Government International Institution of Municipal Clerks.

Chestnutt said she is proud of her accomplishment and of her history-making role.

“If I had to tell young people anything, it would be you can do anything you put your minds to, no matter what adversity come your way, believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything,” she said.