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5 Questions: Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Downes

Becky Campbell • Aug 1, 2019 at 11:00 PM

Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Downes has spent her entire adult life trying to keep things running smoothly wherever she’s worked — as a corrections officer when her career began, and now as the head of the Washington County court system’s clerk’s office.

Downes, who has a degree in criminal justice from East Tennessee State University, began working at the Washington County Jail when it was in downtown Jonesborough. With the opening of the Detention Center in 1995, she rose through the ranks quickly, first as a jailer, then as a platoon sergeant, lieutenant, captain and major.

As the major over jail administration, Downes was responsible for 110 employees and 650 inmates.

She spent 19 years in that position before deciding to run for public office after Karen Guinn announced her retirement as the Circuit Court clerk in 2017.

It was a tough decision, and there was a learning curve, but Downes has put in extra hours to ensure she’s knowledgeable about every aspect of her new job.

What’s your idea of a good day at work?

“No phone calls prior to coming to work to let me know something’s wrong. It is always a good start to the day knowing all employees are safe and healthy! Coming into the office and everyone seems to be in good spirits; the clerks, the attorneys, and the judges.

The day progresses without unpleasant surprises. Everything seems to be flowing with work getting done efficiently and the public getting prompt service.

The day ends as it started, with people I work with still in good spirits, and we can take that home with us to share.”

Ideal vacation

“Aruba, because it’s where my husband and I went for our honeymoon, it’s the prettiest Caribbean island, the weather is excellent and the water is a beautiful blue.”

How do you describe Johnson City to people who may not be familiar with our region?

“Johnson City is a beautiful place to live — surrounded by mountains and we are able to enjoy all four seasons.”

What's your favorite part of the workday?

“The morning — I enjoy listening to the employees discuss their game plan for the day. With 33 employees, someone (usually more than one) is off on vacation, personal day, etc. ... The employees will help one another out in other divisions during someone’s absence.”

Do you have a hobby or interest that might surprise some to know?

“My number one interest is family, but anyone who knows me will not be surprised. My hobbies are reading and travel.”

Quick Facts:

• Hometown: Roanoke, Va. — born in New Jersey but raised in Roanoke

• Favorite fruit: apples

• Last movie: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

• Pet peeve: Negative people

• Professional sports team: New York Giants

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