When Linda D. Hays was growing up in Newton County, the thought of running for political office never crossed her mind. Hays’ path, however, led her to become the Clerk of Superior Court for her hometown — a position she has held since 1983.
Throughout the 40 years she has served, Hays highlighted there are hard and good aspects of her responsibilities. But the good outweighs the hard.
“In court, we have a lot of really hard, sad cases,” Hays said. “But adoptions are always a real pleasure. It’s so good to see the children and to see that they’ve got a permanent home, a good family and things like that.”
Before running for Clerk of Superior Court, the closest Hays got to being involved in politics was through her dad and by voting.
Hays’ dad kept up with the political climate, whether it be on the local, state or national level and never failed to read the newspaper to keep up with the latest. Other than that, Hays has always been a devoted voter in every election.
While attending Newton County High School, Hays worked her first job at White’s Department Store. She then graduated high school and married her husband, Theron, at 18 years old. They had two children, Marcy and Greg.
Looking back on her time growing up in Newton County brings back many fond memories for Hays.
“Everybody seemed to know everybody. We had drug stores, soda fountains and things like that. After school people would go there and congregate. Then we got places like Dairy Queen and Cow Palace,” Hays said. “It was just such a friendly, good place with a beautiful downtown area. And we have lots of stores. So it was just really a good place to grow up.”
One day out of the blue, Jack Morgan, chairman of the Newton County Commission at the time, called Hays to offer her a job. He asked if Hays would work a temporary job in the Family and Children’s Services.
Hays accepted and worked there for several months when another position came open for which she applied. But, when going to take the test, something “crazy” happened.
“I was registered for the test,” Hays said. “Got there, and there was no way that they would let me take that test. Every way I turned it was like, ‘No.’ That door just slammed.”
It just had to be a God thing with the way everything worked out.Linda D. Hays
Another door soon opened by way of Morgan again. In 1976, Morgan offered Hays a job to work in the clerk’s office and she accepted. There were just four people working there.
The sitting clerk passed away after just being re-elected and the chief deputy clerk was then appointed to serve the remaining two years.
In the next election in 1982, Hays decided to run for the position and won. She assumed the position in 1983.
Fifty years later, Hays still can’t definitely explain why things played out the way they did.
“It just had to be a God thing with the way everything worked out,” Hays said. “Because the ladies that I met over in the Family and Children’s Services, a couple of their husbands were really into politics and they managed my campaigns. God just really opened this door and put me here. And I met these people, and then they really helped me and they’ve been like lifelong friends.”
Hays’ training and certifications were completed via an extensive course through the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
Hays has been president of the Superior Court Clerks Association and of the Superior Court Clerk Council of Georgia. She also chaired three committees: Conference, Training and Awards.
Awards earned by Hays include the Stetson Bennett Clerk of the Year and Constitutional Officer of the Year both for the state of Georgia. In 2019, Congressman Hank Johnson awarded Hays with the Pillar of Power Award. A year later, Hays received the F. Barry Wilkes ECLAT Award following her recognition as one of The Covington News’ Unsung Hero honorees in 2021.
On July 12, 2019, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Hays to the Superior Court Clerk Retirement Board.
Recently, Hays and her office added two new services that they offer, too.
First, the e-certification, which provides people a way to request certified court and real estate records 24 hours a day all year long. Then, the Filing Activity Notification System (FANS) for people to oversee activity regarding their property and records.
Now, Hays and her husband have enjoyed nearly 57 years of marriage and they also have four grandchildren and two great granddaughters.
Hays plans to retire from her post next year. But, when asked what advice she would give to somebody aiming for any career path, she pointed back to her willingness to serve.
“I don’t think anybody can be very successful unless they get their wisdom and knowledge from God. That worked for me,” Hays said. “You can’t be a leader unless you serve other people. I think you have to be a people person, and you have to really take on a lot of responsibility and know that you’ve got liability. We’re here to help.”