‘The right thing to do’

04/11/2014 7:07 AM

04/12/2014 6:06 AM

One week before Will Crocker announced he would retire after 36 years as Johnston County’s clerk of court, Michelle Creech Ball sat down across a table from him and told him her plans.

She wanted his job.

“It didn’t bother him,” Ball said. “He said, ‘Everybody has a right to do what they want to do.’ He was very positive about my ability to do this.”

A week later, Crocker announced his retirement. “So I had a week of trying to figure out how I was going to beat Mr. Crocker,” Ball said with a chuckle.

Ball, 44, had considered running for several years, and as things in her life began to arrange themselves conveniently – her daughters are now teenagers and her son just turned 8 – she decided to leap for it.

A paralegal, Ball has worked for Spence & Spence in Smithfield for 22 years. She helps with real-estate closings, wills, personal-injury cases and some traffic matters.

Ball grew up in Micro and earned a degree in English from Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, in Wilson. She also took classes in business and commercial art and wanted to be a journalist.

After graduating, she worked in various jobs, including advertising and sports editing. While she was working in advertising for Bob Spence Jr.’s wife Helen, “he came in and hired me away from her,” Ball said.

“I told him I would work for him until I found a better offer, and I’ve been here 22 years,” Ball said. Spence trained her so well, she said, that clients are just as comfortable calling her with questions as they are calling Spence.

Now, after over two decades, clerk of court “is just a natural progression in my career,” Ball said.

She knows the clerk’s office well. Often, she sits across from Crocker as he makes decisions, and she and her husband Jerry went through the clerk’s office when they decided to adopt children. Their two older girls had lived with them a while before the adoption.

“We were foster parents, and that is one of the facets the clerk’s office handles,” Ball said.

Ball has four children, and the youngest three are adopted. Being a foster mom taught her to see situations broadly but not to overlook the law.

“We all have the capacity to make a wrong choice that will affect us for a long time,” Ball said. “I think you have to look at the whole situation,” Ball said. She added, “The clerk has to make hard decisions, and sometimes it’s not necessarily decisions that make people feel good, but if the law says this is the remedy, then that’s what you have to do.”

In addition to knowing the clerk’s office, Ball said, she knows how to multitask. As a mom of four, she coordinates sports and school schedules while helping her husband keep the books at his surveying business. Also, she often serves as head cook for fundraising events for First Baptist Church in Smithfield.

Though the job would come with a pay increase, Ball sees the position as a way to serve more people.

“I love to help people solve their problems,” she said. “And here, I can serve the people that can come here to pay for our services, but over there, I plan to have an open door, and the people that come, we’ll serve them the best that I can, hopefully lots more than I am able to serve here.”

Being clerk of court, Ball said, would likely be more stressful than her current job. It would also mean leaving a job she has known for nearly a quarter-century. But, she said, “It just seemed like the right thing to do, and I don’t know, I felt the Lord leading me to do it.”

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