- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - When fall comes around, Deb Simenson won’t be worrying about finding enough Burleigh County residents for a jury or getting all the county’s court files organized. Instead, she’ll be battling her husband for the job of driving the combine or pulling the grain cart.

“He thinks he’s going to be in charge. I think I’m going to be in charge,” the longtime Burleigh County clerk of court told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1tTQqg5 ). “It remains to be seen.”

After more than three decades as the clerk of court, Simenson is stepping down to work with her husband on their farm and ranch near Garrison, though she plans to pop up once in a while at the courthouse to serve as a bailiff.

Simenson, 54, recently finished up the clerking career she never planned to have.

Simenson’s mother was the Wells County clerk of court and in 1979 attended a clerk convention. Burleigh County Clerk of Court Marian Barbie asked in passing whether Simenson’s mother had any children and, if so, whether they were in need of employment. It just so happened that Simenson, then 19, was looking for a job.

So, in August 1979, she went to work in the Burleigh County clerk of court’s office.

“I never thought this would be my only job,” Simenson said.

She spent three years in Burleigh County, then four years in the clerk’s office in Ward County while her husband went to college. When she returned to Bismarck, Barbie had a position available for her.

In 1991, Simenson ran to be the Burleigh County clerk of court, then an elected position. She’s been at the helm of the office, which files court documents, schedules hearings and summons jurors, ever since. In 2001, her office became state-funded, making her position appointed instead of elected.

She’s seen some changes in the court system, most recently in a welcome switch to paperless recordkeeping. The move kept Simenson from having to find more space for the ever-ballooning civil and criminal case files opened in the county.

“We’re basically keepers of the records, and there get to be more and more records to be kept,” she said. “The volume of cases has drastically increased.”

Michele Bring, who has worked under Simenson for more than 5½ years, will take over the reins in the Burleigh County clerk’s office. Bring said she’s excited about her new opportunity but has “big shoes to fill.”

“She’s really good at what she does,” Bring said about Simenson. “She’ll be missed.”

Simenson has enjoyed her job, even with the stressful days of trying to find enough people to fill out a jury and the worries that creep into her already worry-prone mind after learning details of criminal cases.

“I really like what I do,” she said, noting she isn’t leaving because she’s tired of her work but because it feels like time to move on. “I’ll miss the whole court system,” she said.

Her husband has long wanted to farm and ranch full time and retired after 32 years working at the power plant to do so.

“That was always his dream,” Simenson said.

Like her career in clerking, Simenson never planned on a career in agriculture. But now that she’s there, she’s looking forward to it. She especially enjoys harvest season and anticipates the competition to command the combine.

Simenson said her family will spend summers at the farm and return to Bismarck in the fall, at least until her youngest son, now a sophomore, finishes high school.

Her husband is about half done with planting, and Simenson figures she’ll spend her first week out from behind the desk in front of a steering wheel instead.

“If I do anything, I’ll be hauling anhydrous,” she said.

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