Brenett Haynes, Chancery Clerk of Bolivar County since 2008, is the very definition of “public servant.” Serving a community of over 31,000 citizens she approaches her work with diligence, professionalism, integrity… as well as gratitude and humbleness.
“I’m blessed to not only do the work and job I love, but to also be able to assist people and make their lives better,” Haynes said.
Having worked in the Chancery Clerk’s office since 1976, Haynes was elected as the first African-American Chancery Clerk of Bolivar County. Along with her daily duties as Clerk, Haynes also served as President of The Mississippi Chancery Clerks Association last year and on the City of Cleveland’s Planning Board.
“I really don’t seek out recognition for what I do,” Haynes chuckles. “It’s satisfying enough to do my job as well as I can and, in the process, help those residents who depend on me and my office.”
The Cleveland native and Mississippi Valley State and Delta State University graduate deals with a variety of statutes, regulations and laws in her capacity as chancery clerk. Along with being the official clerk of records for the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors, Haynes also handles the minutes, dockets and payroll for her and a staff of nine. The record keeping ranges from deeds, mortgages, real property liens, land rolls, tax receipts and pending lawsuits notices to property disputes, estates, matters of equity, divorces, child custody, conservatorships and many other issues. Haynes says she maintains an “open door policy” and will even go the extra mile to go to people’s houses and help them if the need arises.
“Her role in our community and the job she does as chancery clerk is so very vital to all of us here in Bolivar County,” said longtime Cleveland attorney Kirkham Povall. “Brenett is just an outstanding person to work with–incredibly professional and conscientious in what she does. She has a sense of duty that, I think, is truly unmatched.”
“You never know from one day to the next what we’ll be faced with or doing in this office,” Haynes noted. “And, yes, I welcome people to come in anytime and research their family’s property background for instance–I’ve spent hours helping people with just that,” she said, “as our records date back to the early 1900s and are open and accessible to the public. The very definition of public service to me means helping people. And that’s what I try to do with each and every person I work with whatever their specific needs are.”
Haynes, who spends her time between offices in Cleveland and Rosedale, said the work never stopped during the recent Covid lockdown.
“I was at the office every day even though we were ‘closed’ for two weeks and I tried to accommodate the lawyers, for instance, whose work really never stops, and to help meet the paperwork deadlines for people wanting to buy a house or borrow money. I would drive out to see them to meet those deadlines if I needed to do so. These issues come through my office so we couldn’t just take time off. We were very careful, of course, and followed state health guidelines, but life went on and we had to go along with it. The Lord blessed me to be in this position. And I take my work seriously. I never try to pass the buck to some other public official–we don’t handle current taxes or criminal records, for example, but if I receive a call about those matters I guide the person in the right direction. I feel that’s what I’m here for: assist people in any way I can.”
Haynes said she’s close to retirement age and the workload is increasingly stressful, but she doesn’t believe she’s ready to call it a career–not just yet.
“There is a lot of stress dealing with county money, dealing with a payroll of about 290 public employees and it’s not like it used to be; it is more complicated. But, as I keep saying, I love the work, I love my job and I don’t see myself walking away anytime soon.”
Haynes is most proud of where she made it to today out of where she came from.
“My family were sharecroppers and I always say I was just a ‘country girl’,” she laughs. “But, I worked hard, stayed focused and have done what I set out to do in my career.”
Married to Cleveland businessman Randy Haynes for 40 years, the couple have two children: Xavier, who lives in Saudi Arabia and works as an engineer in the oil business and daughter, Sonya, who is a Physician’s Assistant in New Orleans. They also have two grandchildren, Raleigh and Reese. While the Haynes’ planned trip to Saudi Arabia this year to visit their son fell through due to the pandemic, they often visit their daughter in New Orleans.
“She asks us from time to time if we want to retire there with her,” said Haynes. “But, you know–I love it here. The Delta is home and the people have been so good to both of us. I don’t think I’d rather be anywhere else.”
By Jack Criss
The Bolivar Bullet