Brunswick County Clerk of Superior Court/Judge of Probate Jim MacCallum oversees the Brunswick County Courthouse with an eagle’s eye.
No detail is too small for James “Jim” MacCallum to ignore.
He tells of arriving at his office at the Brunswick County Courthouse one day and noticing the American and North Carolina flags were missing from the poles in front of the building. The first step was to review the cameras, he says. The cameras showed a man folding the flags, definitely with respect. The next step was to visit the sheriff’s office to see who had been released from jail that morning. There was a definite match. “The man was apprehended again,” Jim says with satisfaction.
As Brunswick County Clerk of Superior Court and Judge of Probate, MacCallum, 72, is attuned to minute details. He was elected to the position in 2010 and again in 2014 and has declared himself a candidate in the 2018 election. “This is a perfect segue to what I’ve done my whole life,” the Bolivia resident says. “Retirement doesn’t work for me.”
Beyond his friendly greeting and riveting smile, it’s impossible to ignore his signature bow tie, a wardrobe staple, he says, for more than 20 years.
MacCallum practiced law for 33 years in West Virginia then in Brunswick County when he and wife, Sue, moved here in 2002. He emphasizes, though, that holding a law degree is not mandatory for the clerk’s job, although it helps.
Since taking office, he has been instrumental in making changes at the courthouse that 500 to 1,000 people visit each day. Among them are: increasing the number of cameras to more than 60, adding an ATM machine and wireless internet, making sure defibrillators are at the ready and supplying staff with electronic key cards.
“Throughout the building my title is General Manager of the Courthouse,” he says. He’s quick to credit sheriff’s deputies, other Brunswick County employees and his staff of nearly three dozen for efficient operation. His biggest challenge, he says, is hiring the right people. “You can teach people what to know, but I look for what’s in a servant’s heart.”
Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David has high praise for MacCallum. “He is the consummate professional and understands the need for coordination and cooperation with the D.A.s office,” David says. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime.”
He explains that MacCallum’s responsibilities are widespread, including staffing, security and technology. “He is on the forefront of technological issues, and he’s pro-active.” He adds, “Jim is a consensus builder. He breaks down barriers and brings community leaders together. He leads from the front and by example.”
MacCallum’s recent focus is the 20,000-square-foot expansion of the courthouse. He unfolds an architect’s plan to give a visual account and explains the addition will be at the west end of the present courthouse and will take over the staff parking lot. A new jury assembly room and new court rooms are in the plans as well other needed changes. Groundbreaking is about one year away and completion is expected around 2020.
The county’s population has grown from 78,000 in 2002 to 126,000 today, and by 2020 it will be about 150,000, MacCallum says, adding “This explosive growth created the need. It shows what a fast growing county this is, and our duty is to provide services for them.”
County manager Ann Hardy says the current mortgage on the courthouse is nearly paid off, and the cost of the new addition will be financed by issuing bonds.
MacCallum’s interests go beyond his day job. His involvement in volunteer activities are indicative of his interest in the community. He was president of Brunswick County Communities in Schools and Brunswick Community College Foundation and a member of Brunswick County Literacy Advisory Board and Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, which named him 2010 Citizen of the Year. One recent week he was featured speaker at a Rotary Club meeting, another he was greeting people at Rotary Club of South Brunswick Islands.
“He’s a long-standing member of SBI Rotary and is always there to help,” says Lin Kelly, executive secretary and co-treasurer of SBI Rotary. “He is generous to the foundation.”
One of MacCallum’s favorite activities is being host of the ATMC-TV program Our Hometown, in which he interviews people from around the county.
“Jim is one of the most dependable people I’ve ever worked with,” writes Aaron Varnam, video production manager at ATMC, in an email. “Working with Jim is always something ATMC TV looks forward to. He’s definitely an optimist, and it shows.”
Furthermore, “He really cares about this community, and wants the people and organizations within it to prosper.”
One of MacCallum’s hobbies is running, and he manages to log 30 to 40 miles a week, although he says in 2017 it’s closer to 30. He started running in the 1970s while in law school. “I needed a stress reliever,” he says. He explains that he was ready to run in the New York Marathon in 2016, but personal tragedy hit him and Sue when their son Chris, 40, passed away December 23 after a long illness.
Sue has also dealt with health issues through the past several years but continues her involvement with Brunswick Little Theatre. MacCallum refers to her as “the angel in my life.” The couple’s other children, daughter, Katie, 38, and son J.C., 33, practice law in Charleston, West Virginia.
“I told them both not to go to law school,” MacCallum says, nodding as if remembering when he said the words.
MacCallum grew up in Madison, West Virginia, “in the coal fields, he says. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and his doctor of jurisprudence degree at West Virginia University in Morgantown. He served in the Navy from 1968 to 1972 with one year in Vietnam.
He says he’s not sure what his greatest professional achievement is but that he does know one thing: “The most rewarding aspect of my career is serving as Clerk of Superior Court.”