January 12, 2019 10:03:04 PM
Amanda Lien - [email protected]
When Lowndes County Chancery Clerk Lisa Younger Neese thinks about her inspiration to seek public office, she looks at a photograph sitting on top of a cabinet in her office.
In the frame is the face of her late father, Charles Jerome Younger, who served as the longtime chancery clerk before Neese succeeded him in 2002.
"I think of him every day," Neese said of her father, who passed away in 2009. "I loved him and I watched how he treated people."
At the end of the year, Neese will be taking that photograph home, as she ends her own 36-year career in public service, including the last 16 years as an elected official.
Neese announced last week she will not seek another term as chancery clerk.
"Winning is fun, but I think it's time for me to go on home and enjoy life," she said. "I want to spend time with my husband and my mother. I have two sisters, and they don't work, so I want to spend time with them."
Neese started as a deputy in that office in 1983 and won her first election as clerk in 2002, the year her father -- who convinced the initially reluctant Neese to run -- retired.
"I told him, 'Daddy, I can't,' but he kept saying I needed to do it," she recalled. "He talked me into doing it, and he backed me all the way."
As chancery clerk, Neese is responsible for a swath of duties, from recording land documents and deeds to filing divorce and adoption papers. She also personally files mental disability and drug commitment affidavits and can be appointed by a judge to be the administrator of someone's estate.
It's a lot of responsibility, Neese said, more than she saw her father undertake when he was chancery clerk and she was a deputy clerk. She gives credit to the four deputy clerks she oversees for running the chancery clerk's office so well.
"I don't know what I'd do without those girls," she said. "Because this is a fun job, but it's a serious job, too. We've had some ugly people (come in the office), you know, but what we try to do is solve their problems. And they do a great job."
Neese has served as president for the Mississippi Chancery Clerks Association. She's also heavily involved in the community as a member of the Columbus Exchange Club and Lowndes County Republican Women.
"I'm still going to do those things," she said. "You know, I'm not going to die. But life is so short. It's time for me to go on home and enjoy life."
Jim Davidson, a fellow Exchange Club member who retired in December after 12 years as a chancery judge, has known Neese since she was a child.
"I helped build her daddy's swimming pool when I was in high school," he said.
As a lawyer for decades before being elected to the bench, Davidson said he witnessed Neese make the transition from able deputy to a "great clerk."
"She runs a first-class office," Davidson said. "She's been really good at understanding she's a servant of the people, and that really shines through.
"She's a people person and really easygoing," he added. "... She's always been on the cutting edge of what's going on in the county."
Neese said she plans to enjoy "every minute" of her job as she serves her final year.
"It's the best job in Lowndes County," she said. "Sixteen years has flown by for me. ... It's time for someone younger to have this position. But it's bittersweet."
Managing Editor Zack Plair contributed to this article.