Paul Garrett: Boring and proud of it

When Charlottesville's clerk of the Circuit Court, Paul Garrett, was asked to sit on the Hot Seat, he insisted that he was boring and dull, and that The Hook might want to interview someone else. We thought he was being modest– until we saw his answers to our questions.

Okay, the Circuit Court clerk's job may not sound like the most scintillating elective office around. Yet, surprisingly, it turned into a bit of a contest briefly this spring when Garrett was challenged by a fellow Dem. He rallied the Democratic machine to overwhelmingly crush the opposition and win the party's nomination for the $91K-a-year, eight-year job that he's held for three terms.

With no Republican on the ballot, Garrett's a shoo-in for a fourth term.

His office in the basement of the Circuit Court screams "institutional." But maybe you don't want the person charged with preserving the city's records to be too colorful. In fact, it's a mystery how someone as taciturn as Garrett ended up in politics.

"It wasn't a matter of wanting to get into politics," he explains. "It was a matter of being asked if I would be interested in this position, and the political part was secondary." Garrett was already working as assistant city attorney. Before that, he was an Air Force attorney. "All my work has been in public service," he says.

Garrett details some of the frustrations of being the city's top paper pusher, of how attachments get lost and sometimes require more than one staple.

The clerk's job is not without peril. There's a swinging half door to get to Garrett's office, and if you aren't careful, "you can see stars," he warns. And occasionally there's a citizen upset and frustrated. "That's why we have deputy sheriffs," says Garrett.

Garrett is one of the few elected officials around who is a Charlottesville native. He remembers the city's bleaker days, when segregation was the norm.

"We had certain places we couldn't go as people of color because that was the law," he recalls. Even as a child, "I felt something wasn't right about it." He describes going to the movies and being shunted to a side ticket booth. Even if he was already there, a white customer would be taken care of first. "And then you could go up to a roped off balcony," he says ruefully.

Despite his insistence that he's "dull and boring," Garrett has a deep rumble of a laugh, even while insisting, "I can't think of anything interesting about me."

Could that really be true? Is Garrett really as boring as he says he is?

"I'll go to my refrigerator, take out one of those beers that's always there, and drink to that," replies Delegate Mitch Van Yahres.

Warning: the responses below may induce drowsiness.

Age: Over 50 years of age

What brought you here? The City of Charlottesville was my place of birth.

What's worst about living here? Nothing comes to mind in response to this question.

Favorite hangout? Home

Most overrated virtue? It is more appropriate for others to respond to this question.

What would people be surprised to know about you? It is also more appropriate for others to respond to this question.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I am not able to respond to this question.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? It is a great honor to render public service to the citizens of the Charlottesville community.

What do people find most annoying about you? It is more appropriate for others to respond to this question.

Whom do you admire? Dr. Martin Luther King

What are you reading now? Officer of the Court by Lelia Kelly

What subject causes you to rant? Attempting to comply with administrative regulations of other agencies when the enforcement of what is in existence is changed or when there have been changes which were not communicated to this office is one matter that is particularly troubling.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Nothing

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Nothing

What do you drive? Oldsmobile

What's in your car CD player right now? Nothing

What's your next journey? No journey has been planned.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? The consequences of conduct that was different than what was expected of me by my parents had to be addressed.

What do you regret? One of my regrets is not being able to do certain things that are beyond my control but which others seem to think are within my control.

Favorite comfort food? None

What's always in your refrigerator? Orange juice

Must-see TV? National news

Favorite cartoon? None

Describe a perfect day. I'm not sure what this would be.

Walter Mitty fantasy? None

Who'd play you in the movie? I have no idea about the response to this question.

Most embarrassing moment? I am not sure about the response to this question.

Best advice you ever got? The response to this question depends on the particular subject on which the advice may have been rendered.

Favorite bumper sticker? None


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