Janet Flanner receives Order of Long Leaf Pine
Last week, Janet Flanner walked into a surprise ceremony to induct her into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Her husband, Mike, conspired with District Court Judge Tripp Helms to lure her to a Union County courtroom filled with friends and old coworkers. The two men led Flanner to believe she was invited to Helm's swearing in. But when she arrived, Helms admitted he was sworn in earlier.
"She said, 'Oh no, I missed it,'" Helms said. "She had no idea we were all there for her."
Flanner worked for the Union County Clerk of Superior Court most of her adult life, serving through the tenure of four elected clerks. She started working part-time at the clerk's office when she was 19. She retired two years ago with 42 years with the court system. But with all the overtime she worked, the total amounted to about 50 years, her friend Alison Baucom said.
"When you're there that long, it's almost like a family," Baucom said.
When she announced her retirement, Helms, a former clerk of court, nominated her for the Long Leaf Pine. There have been others with equally long tenure, but Flanner was different, Helms said.
"Her idea was that from the time when she walked into the courthouse until she went home, she was supposed to work as hard as she could for the people and the state of North Carolina," Helms said.
Baucom met Flanner when she married into the family. Later, the two worked together in the clerk's office.
"Janet is one of a kind," Baucom said. "She has a caring heart, she's dedicated her life to her job and serving the state of North Carolina. She gives everything to her church, her family and her friends. She just lives it. She holds nothing back."
Flanner quickly set herself apart among coworkers. Before going home, she ensured her work was correct. Everything had to be right. Flanner would not leave until she felt satisfied that every file was complete, every judgment was copied verbatim and every form was signed.
"She enjoyed her job. She was very dedicated to it and wanted everything to run smoothly and for it to be done well," Mike said.
Fastidious attention to detail meant long hours, missed meals and less family time that she would have liked.
"I tried to outstay her a couple of times," Helms said. "I never made it."
But Flanner understood how important her work was. The clerk's office keeps thousands of records on file and maintains the minutes of all court proceedings. All judgements and orders must be transcribed accurately so anyone referencing them years later know exactly what happened in court.
"It's very important that everything be right and be in the right place," current Union County Clerk of Superior Court J.R. Rowell said. "The result of a mistake could mean ramifications years later."
When Flanner retired, Rowell said he understood but hated losing someone so dependable.
"She was always there. No matter what happened, you knew Janet would be there and would have everything under control," Rowell said.
That focus remained even after retirement. Only instead of long hours at the office, Flanner spends time in her garden and with her grandchildren. She and Mike volunteer at their church and spend time at their lake house.
"She's living it up now. She deserves it, she's worked so hard," Baucom said.