Although Town Clerk Jonnie Driver grew up just outside the town limits on Morphus Bridge Road, she says she prefers being a little farther out.
Driver, 62, who is retiring on May 31 after 24 years working for the town, has lived on about 50 acres with her husband, Carlton Driver, in the Middlesex area in Nash County for about 45 years.
They don’t raise crops but do have 50-60 cows, six donkeys and a mule, as well as chickens and ducks that her grandson raises.
“We’ve got a regular farm out there,” she said.
Jonnie Driver went to Wendell Elementary School and Southern Nash High School. She worked at Kemp Furniture in Wendell, where her father worked for 45 years, before coming to work for the town. The site is now home to a screen printing business.
Kemp closed in 1992, and she found a part-time job with the town in the finance department. She moved to a full-time job as administrative secretary for the town manager and then deputy finance director and deputy clerk to the Town Board before taking the town clerk job in 2006.
Her job involves helping keep the Town Board and mayor up to speed on the issues that come before them by searching for meeting minutes and other documents they need. Each board is different, she said, and the current one has been particularly engaged.
“I think that’s probably the way it should be,” she said, “but it does mean more work, not for me necessarily, but the town manager and myself together.”
She puts the agenda together for the board’s twice monthly meetings, including all the documents that go along with it. “It’s one of those things where you’re either preparing for a meeting or typing minutes from the past one,” she said.
Driver has worked under six town managers, including one interim leader.
Town Manager Teresa Piner said whenever a question comes up about what the board did years ago and town staff is searching for a document, “Jonnie can find it. ... That institutional knowledge cannot be replaced.”
The town has more than doubled in population since Driver was hired, but the growth hasn’t greatly affected her job as clerk, she said. She did notice that she was dealing with a growing number of customers when she worked at the window at Town Hall.
The Drivers have two daughters, 41 and 36, who also live in the Middlesex area, and three grandchildren.
Driver plans to spend a lot of time with them around home, but she and her husband are planning a trip to Maine for right after her retirement. He is retired from the N.C. Department of Corrections.
“I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to go up there and see what it looks like,” she said. “Maybe eat lobster.”
They also will be going to Disney World with their children and grandchildren in the fall.
Driver likes to fish and cook, especially baking, and plans to do more of that in retirement. “It’s just relaxing to me to get in the kitchen and just go to it,” she said.
The town’s Information Technology Director Tamah Hughes, who works with Driver in the administration department, said she stands out for being so “genuine.”
“She’s a great lady and we’re surely going to miss her,” Hughes said. “I’m happy for her but sad for us.”
Piner said Driver stands out for her patience in working with the public.
“Jonnie is going to be missed immensely,” Piner said. “All the employees just look up to her and admire her in so many ways.”
Thursday, May 12, the Town Board and employees will hold a goodbye luncheon at the Wendell Community Center. Piner also invited public well-wishers to come to the Monday, May 9, board meeting, Driver’s last as clerk. It also will be at the community center, as Town Hall will be undergoing renovations.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826