(This week The Columbian-Progress spotlights Municipal Court Clerk Anita Echols.)
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born in Compton, Calif., March 20, 1958.
Q: Where did you attend school?
A: I graduated from Santa Ana Valley High School in California.
Q: Where do you work? Tell us about your job/company.
A: I’m the Municipal Court clerk. My job is basically to assist the judge during court. I prepare the docket for him on a daily basis. When officers write tickets and citations for different things, it produces a docket with all of the charges and court dates. We take the payments and issue failure to appear letters when people don’t come to court. If they don’t appear in court within so many days that we give them, then we have to issue contempt of court or failure to appear warrants. We help the judge with the paperwork during court and keep up with the pleas. After court we have to input all of the information into the computer system so there’s always a record.
Q: What led you to your profession?
A: I worked in banking for 19 years, then after I left the bank I was actually working in retail because I love retail. One of the police officers, Pearlie Hendricks, just called me and said they have a job opening that you would probably be good for as a deputy clerk. I did like retail, but I’m older now and standing on my feet all day was kind of bothering my legs. So I came on down here, and everybody was so nice. I had an interview with the clerk at that time, Donna, and she introduced me to the mayor. They all seemed really nice and it was interesting so it was a good deal.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: Helping people because everybody that comes to court isn’t bad. Nobody is happy to come see us. I just like to make people smile and make them feel like they’re not bad. I try to be nice to see them because a lot of times people are less fortunate and can’t pay. I just try to make them feel good about themselves and try to help them out when I can.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
A: Trying to decide who is telling you the truth. A lot of times I try to keep my head down in court. I want to believe and give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes you just know people aren’t telling you the truth. When you’re kind they try to use that as a weakness and always give you a sad story. And I don’t like to issue warrants. I don’t like for people to have to go to jail.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
A: To always look at the good and the positive in people. Everybody has a story, and a lot of times people just end up in situations. I would usually turn my nose up to a thief, but there was a guy who was stealing because he was hungry. So to me it’s important to find out the why and get perspective.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I thought I was going to be a movie star. In fact I took drama when I was in high school and did it a little bit in college. That’s what I really thought I wanted to be until one of my cousins went into the singing profession, and there were a lot of demands in her life. It was to the point where I said, “I don’t want that in life.”
Q: What was your first job?
A: The first job I had was working for Garcia Corporation, making fishing rods in Santa Ana, Calif.
Q: Who is the person who has been most influential in your life?
A: My parents, Milford and Gladys Alaman. I’m the seventh out of 11 children, and growing up in California in the city we were spoiled, not with things but with love. My mother and father were just such strong Christian people and instilled their values in me to be beautiful on the inside. I wanted to be pretty like my cousins, but they always told me to be pretty on the inside because that’s what is most important. My mom always told me, “I’m sending you out on my teachings. However you go out and live your life it’s a reflection of your family.”
Q: What is your spouse’s name?
A: I’m a widow. His name was Thomas Echols Sr.
Q: Do you have children?
A: I have three children. Kandice is an optometrist, Thomas Jr. was a teacher at East Marion but left teaching to work for Sanderson Farms and Adrine is a computer tech for City Bank in Dallas.
Q: If you could have anything for your last meal on earth, what would it be?
A: Shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp. I love shrimp and crab.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: I want to go to Jamaica. I just think those are my people there, and it looks like everybody is having a good time. It’s colorful and bright. It just seems like they’re true and loving. I also would love to go to New York. I want to go to Broadway and see the shows, and I want to go to the Today show.
Q: What hobbies do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I love to shop, and I love church. I go to church a lot and love singing. I like to make people happy so I’m cooking trying to feed somebody. When I get the opportunity with my church, Blue Springs CME, to cook for the homeless, I enjoy that.
Q: What do you enjoy about Columbia and Marion County?
A: Right now I’m really loving this downtown thing. I think that is so amazing because I love Hallmark movies so when I go down there and am watching it it’s like being in a Hallmark movie.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone from your life or history, who would it be and why?
A: My husband. I want to tell him about his kids because I know that he would be so proud. They were young and still in school, and I know that he would be so proud to see they did what he wanted them to do.
Q: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do all day?
A: I would want to feed people and go visit my family in California and my children. I’d like to have my own soup kitchen because I’m concerned about the homeless people and people who don’t have enough food.
Q: What is one thing you want to do that you’ve never tried?
A: I want to try parachuting because that amazes me. I’m frightened to do it, but I would love to try that.
Q: Using one word for each, what are your top three morals?
A: Honesty, love and forgiveness.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: As a person who showed love.
— Joshua Campbell