BEAUMONT Ã¯Â¿Â½ Kathy McCollum has been around the Jefferson County Courthouse for so long that she describes her beginning years as "B.C." times --Ã¯Â¿Â½ "before computers" that is.
McCollum has spent the past 23 years as Court Coordinator for the 60th Judicial District with Judge Gary Sanderson. With a total of 26 and a half years with the county, McCollum retires on March 30, 2007, and trades in the trial and hearing dockets for a life where the only scheduling she will do is for travel with her husband and visits with six grandchildren.
"I've really seen a lot of changes in the way the courts operate," McCollum said in a recent interview. "We didn't have computers when I started. I used to keep a Rolodex on my desk of all the pending cases. When there was a hearing or a motion filed, I would update the card."
Dockets, she said, were done on an old typewriter.
While her process may seem cumbersome by today's standards, McCollum said there is a lot she misses about the old ways.
"There was a lot more interaction with the attorney's then, you got to know people," she said.
As her final day of employment approached, McCollum said she was receiving invitations for lunch and dinner from many of the paralegals that she has been working with over the phone, but never met in person.
"We've had to call each in the morning and describe what we were wearing so we would know each other at the restaurant," McCollum said with a laugh. "We considered each other friends, but had never met!"
Her career with Jefferson County began in the District Clerk's office under Cecil Holstead, and then she worked for a few years under District Clerk Johnny Appleman. And while she saw several judges come and go in the other District Courts, her entire tenure in the 60th has been in the service of Gary Sanderson.
McCollum has nothing but praise for her employer.
"Judge Sanderson has been great. He has not only been a wonderful boss but become a very dear friend," McCollum said, her voice breaking with emotion.
And though she has seen thousands of cases come through, a few stand out in McCollum's mind.
"During my first year, there was a death case, a really terrible car crash. The plaintiff was alleging a defective seatbelt, and I'll never forget Ã¯Â¿Â½ they brought half of the wrecked Mazda into the courtroom during the trial," McCollum said.
She also remembers the case involving the thousands of deaths that occurred at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984.
"We spent weeks getting ready for that, it was going to be a big case. But eventually it was moved to federal court," she said.
One change she noticed over the years was the growing number of asbestos cases coming through the court.
"I think it may have slowed down a little now," McCollum said.
McCollum said she will miss her courthouse "family" and the many friends she has made in the legal community.
"We really have a great Bar Association. They are a wonderful group of good people, and very professional. Many have become some of my closest friends," McCollum said.
With a retirement party planned for March 30, McCollum said someone suggested that the event be held in the Jury Impaneling Room to accommodate all of her friends.
"But I wanted to have it in the courtroom," she said. "That's been my home."