Buncombe County Clerk of Superior Court Robert H. “Bob” Christy Jr., who for the past 18 years has overseen the administrative end of tremendous growth in the court system, announced his retirement last week.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Buncombe County,” Christy told Xpress.
Christy has served as clerk of court since Sept. 1, 1990, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of J. Ray Ellingburg, who launched a run for state senate that year. Christy had been an assistant clerk of court in Ellingburg’s office for seven years at the time of his appointment. He then ran for clerk’s office and won that November, and has won the seat in the four elections since.
As clerk of court, Christy holds a powerful position, and his office oversees the inner workings of Buncombe County’s busy District Court and Superior Court. The office handles all money paid into the county court system—much of it in cash—in the form of fines, forfeitures and civil judgments. It also administers insurance or other money on behalf of minors and adults who don’t have the ability to do it themselves.
The clerk’s office is responsible for clerical and record-keeping duties of the local courts and operates a record-keeping system for it all, from civil actions to special proceedings, minutes of the court, liens and other records required by law.
The clerk also has judicial responsibilities. As the judge of probate, he handles wills and estates. He hears special proceedings such as adoptions and incompetency determinations. He’s empowered to issue arrest and search warrants and can exercise the same powers as a magistrate in terms of taking pleas to minor infractions such as littering and worthless-check offenses.
Christy, 54, oversees an office that’s grown from 47 employees in 1990 to 65 today. The office now handles about $25 million in annual revenue, he said, and he’s seen criminal and civil court filings more than double during his tenure.
Buncombe County’s senior resident Superior Court Judge Dennis J. Winner will choose Christy’s replacement, who will serve until the next election for the office.
Christy’s last day on the job will be Dec. 31. He plans to join the law practice of long-time friend and Asheville attorney Jack Stewart. In his Buncombe County Courthouse office, filled with books and a large desk, Christy joked that he’s got a lot of work to do to cover the costs of putting his four children through college.
“You’ll still see me around,” he pledged.