There were lots of suits. Heavy security. Black SUVs pulled up and disgorged the important looking people. Shopkeepers on Main Street watched as dozens of mucketymucks climbed the steps of the Historic Courthouse. Word spread. The governor was in town.
Elected leaders, longtime Republican Party figures, business owners and much of the Henderson County Bar did indeed assemple in the old courtroom of Courthouse on Friday. The hullabaloo was for the swearing in of longtime prosecutor Jeff Hunt as a Superior Court judge, a special appointment of the veteran prosecutor to the bench by Gov. Pat McCrory. Except there was no McCrory.
He was scheduled to be at the swearing in, officials said, but had to cancel to attend the funeral of former Gov. Jim Holshouser in Pinehurst.
Mark Martin, Senior Associate Justice of the state Supreme Court, praised Hunt for his 19 years as district attorney, representing Henderson, Transylvania and Polk counties.
Hunt told the audience that he had just texted McCrory and received a reply that the governor, at that moment heading into the church for Holshouser's funeral, sent his regrets.
Judge Hunt thanked the roomful of friends and supporters, saying they had been with him through ups and downs of his career. First elected district attorney in 1994 for a district that then also included Rutherford and McDowell counties, Hunt has been re-elected four times.
A graduate of Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest law school, Hunt worked in private practice and as house counsel for the Ecusta division of Olin Corp. in Brevard before his election as district attorney. He has served as president of the Conference of District Attorneys and has been elected several times to the executive committee of the organization. A staunch Republican, he served as Western North Carolina co-chair of Pat McCrory's first campaign for governor, in 2008. He ran for the Republican nomination for the 11th Congressional District seat last year.