James wins Bertie Clerk’s election

Published 8:42 am Thursday, May 8, 2014

WINDSOR – It was touted as, and expected to be, a heated contest.

In the end, Vasti James – in her first campaign to retain the office of Bertie County Clerk of Superior Court – outpolled challenger and Senior Magistrate Arthur J. Watford, Jr. by nearly a thousand votes: 2,154 to 1,165.

James, who was sworn in by the Hon. Superior Court Judge Cy Grant to fulfill the term of long-time Clerk John Tyler when Tyler retired abruptly on January 1, 2014, was seeking her own full four-year term in office.

It was Watford’s second attempt to capture the top court seat that eluded him in a previous election.

James has worked in the Clerk’s office for 17 years after previously working for the county Sheriff’s Department, beginning her courts career as a Deputy Clerk in 1996. For the past eight years, prior to her January appointment, she was chief Assistant Clerk of Superior Court working closely with Tyler.

Watford worked previously with the Choanoke Area Development Association and as a zoning administrator in the town of Lewiston-Woodville. He has been magistrate for what was once Bertie County District-6B for the past 30 years, and is now Chief Magistrate and area director of the state’s Magistrate Association.

During a candidate’s forum held in April, James and Watford traded barbs over the other’s qualifications for the job.

At the forum, James cited nearly two decades of work experience in the Clerk’s office in emphasizing her qualifications and said if elected that in these economic times the greatest difficulty in the undertaking of the job of Clerk would be in maintaining the office’s consistent level of professionalism despite possible cuts in personnel.  Watford had sought to convince voters by emphasizing “a diligent responsibility to protect and preserve, because the very basis of our democracy is built upon the courts.”

In the end, Watford only carried Mitchell’s -2 and Windsor-2; the latter of which he won by just two votes.

Surrounded by family and friends sporting bright purple “James for Clerk” t-shirts, she joined them in the Commissioner’s Room of the Bertie County Office Building on Primary election night expecting a long fight.

As the results trickled in, however, she built what was at first a small lead on early returns and as the numbers grew it became obvious she would be assured of victory.

The clock neared 10 p.m. when the final, unofficial, tally came up on the board as James then reluctantly spoke on her win. She read from prepared remarks she said she’d written down that morning, just in case she needed to quickly recall them.

“I would like to thank my supporters,” James began. “I would like to thank the voters that believed in me and in my ability to perform; and most of all, I thank everybody for their prayers.”

Perhaps the fatigue of a hard campaign shown through as James made her closing remarks before departing the building.

“I’m glad it’s over,” she said.  “I will continue a high standard of excellence and fairness to all the citizens of Bertie County.”