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Ray 'humbled, honored' to serve as clerk of court

J. Tyler Ray, a native of Henderson County, was appointed Clerk of Superior Court on Friday, May 3. J. Tyler Ray, a native of Henderson County, was appointed Clerk of Superior Court on Friday, May 3.

J. Tyler Ray, who was sworn in as the Clerk of Superior Court for Henderson County on Monday, said he is “humbled and honored and overwhelmed” at the opportunity to serve the public and judiciary in the job.

“It’s too early to say if we’re going to make any changes but we’re going to continue to serve the community here in Henderson County the best that we can,” he said. “I just am humbled and honored and overwhelmed with the opportunity to hold this office and serve my community in this way. I’m real excited and looking forward to it.”

Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Peter Knight on Friday appointed Ray to the office that became vacant when Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Kim Gasperson-Justice to a District Court judgeship.

A 2002 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ray has practiced law in Henderson County since his graduation from Campbell University School of Law in 2006. He worked from 2008 to 2013 as an assistant public defender in Judicial District 29B, which is made up of Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties, before joining the Stepp Law Firm.

A native of Henderson County, Ray grew up in the Crab Creek community and graduated from East Henderson High School, where he played cello in the orchestra. He “started messing with the banjo” in high school and later played regularly. “Then my little girl was born and I stuck the thing under the bed for a decade,” he said.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, a teacher at Mills River Elementary School, have two boys and a girl. Ray has been active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors of Valley Hill Fire and Rescue and as a deacon at French Broad Baptist Church. He has solid roots in Henderson County. His mother taught school for 30 years in Henderson County and his father worked for DuPont.

Ray’s appointment to the clerk of court’s position, an elected constitutional office, is the last of the judicial dominoes to fall in the past year. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed District Court Judge Athena Fox Brooks to a special Superior Court judgeship in May 2018 and then appointed C.W. “Mack” McKeller, a Democrat, to the District Court judgeship she vacated. After Resident Superior Court Judge Mark Powell retired last October, Cooper appointed Knight to that seat, creating a second District Court judgeship vacancy in 29B. Cooper announced the appointment of Gasperson-Justice to the bench, handing Knight the duty under state law to appoint a Clerk of Superior Court.

“I enlisted the assistance of a committee comprised of practicing attorneys and others, to review the many fine candidates for the position,” Knight said. “I gave the committee the difficult task of recommending just a few names for consideration; following interview, I selected Mr. Ray for appointment. As a judge, I have had the chance to observe Mr. Ray both in and out of the courtroom for many years, and I recognize that his professionalism, work ethic and experience will serve him well in his responsibilities as Clerk of Superior Court.”

Ray was sworn in as clerk Monday morning. Assistant Clerk of Superior Court Christina Goodson served as interim clerk during the past month while Knight interviewed the short list of candidates the committee recommended. An election for the office of clerk will take place in 2020 and then again in 2022, when Henderson County’s other constitutional offices are on the ballot, said Elections Supervisor Beverly Cunningham.

“I do plan to file (for election) and I’m going to try to stay right here if I can,” said Ray, a registered Republican.