HC Magistrate honored

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

WINTON – Of all the stops along his long career in law enforcement, Robert “Bobby” Beard III finally has his dream job.

And on Tuesday, he was honored for the job he performs for the citizens of Hertford County.

During a brief ceremony prior to the opening of Hertford County District Court, Chief Judge Al Kwasikpui presented Beard with an award for his 10 years of service with the State of North Carolina. For eight of those years, Beard has served as a Hertford County Magistrate.

“Magistrate Beard is very dedicated to his work and to helping the citizens of Hertford County,” Judge Kwasikpui said.

For Beard, it’s all about the people.

“I just love interacting with people…I feel comfortable around folks from all walks of life and from what I’m able to see, it appears they’re comfortable around me,” Beard noted.

In his role as a Magistrate, Beard said he is neither a judge nor a jury.

“It’s not up to me to pass judgment,” he noted. “I’m the first wave of the judicial system. It’s my job to weigh the facts and to establish a bond based on those facts. From that point, the judges, the lawyers and a jury takes over.”

Even though he had a successful career in law enforcement, Beard said he has always longed to become a Magistrate. While waiting for that life opportunity to occur, Beard spent 21 years with the Ahoskie Police Department, two years with the Williamston Police Department and three years as a telecommunicator with the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Along the way, Hertford County veteran Magistrate Merle Vaughan, now deceased, became his guiding force.

“Merle Vaughan was my idol,” Beard said. “I learned a lot from him.”

One of the things Beard learned was that being a Magistrate isn’t an easy job.

“A lot of folks don’t think we have a tough job, but I beg to differ,” Beard noted. “I have the opportunity to work with some outstanding people in Hertford County…the other magistrates, our law enforcement, the Clerk of Court, the judges and all those involved in the judicial process and they’re all very hard-working and extremely professional people.”

The duties of a Magistrate include presiding over Small Claims Court (legal issues under $5,000), performing marriage ceremonies, handle landlord-tenet disagreements, filing out civil papers and working with probation and juvenile officers.

“There are many weeks where I’ll easily put over 200 miles on my vehicle and not even leave Hertford County,” Beard said.

As is normal in his line of work, there is always a funny story to share and Beard did recall one.

“I married a couple one time where the gentleman was up in years while his bride was a younger woman,” Beard said. “Well, the man couldn’t hear all that well and you know when you’re hearing goes you tend to talk louder. After the ceremony, when all the papers were signed and the fee for my service was paid, the old man yelled at me, ‘How much would it have cost if I hit her instead of marrying her.’ I told him he’d better stick with paying for the wedding because he couldn’t afford the other.”

Beard is a graduate of Ahoskie High School (Class of 1970) and has an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Married to wife Deborah, the Beards have two grown children, Matthew and Leigh Ann. Matthew is following in his father’s footsteps, currently in the process of completing his law enforcement training.

“If I could live my life over again, I wouldn’t change but one thing…..trying to become a Magistrate earlier in my career,” Beard concluded.