Jan. 1 marks the official start of new four-year terms for some of Liberty County’s recently elected officials, many of whom gathered on the justice center steps Thursday morning to be sworn in.
F. Barry Wilkes, who begins his eighth term as the clerk of superior court in January, said he was thrilled his wife, Janelle Dykes Wilkes, held the Bible while his longtime colleague and friend, Liberty County Magistrate Court Judge Nancy K. Aspinwall, administered the oath of office.
Wilkes interspersed the ceremonious proceedings with a little humor.
“When I first started out, many of you weren’t even born,” he said.
Wilkes said Aspinwall’s father and family first gave him the opportunity to work in the clerk’s office, and he later was elected to the post of clerk. That was nearly 30 years ago, he recalled.
“Also, I had the privilege to serve with Steve’s (Sikes) father, Bobby Sikes. He was sworn in the same time I was,” Wilkes said. “I always said the clerk of superior court is a public trust and I take it very seriously. I always try and do whatever I can to uphold the oath I took today. I am real blessed. Over the years I’ve had many people work with me, and a lot of them are still with me and they have really made me shine … I appreciate everybody supporting me over the years.”
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes, who was unopposed in the general election, will begin his first true four-year term. Sikes was elected sheriff during a special election when former Sheriff J. Don Martin died in 2010 in the middle of his four-year term.
Sikes continues a family legacy. His grandfather, Paul H. Sikes, served as sheriff for more than 20 years. Steve Sikes’ father, Robert (Bobby) V. Sikes, served for nearly 30 years.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be standing here as sheriff of Liberty County,” Sikes said. “First of all, I would like to give the glory to God. I thought I was retired two years ago, but I felt like the Lord called me to do this. I was obedient and, obviously, the Lord was right. It’s a real big job and I’ve got to surround myself with people I can trust and people who probably know more than I do, but with God’s help and His wisdom and direction, I am looking forward to four years.”
Pat Bowen, who was re-elected to his District 4 county commission seat, said he appreciates all the support he has received in the past. He took his oath alongside Eddie Walden, who was re-elected to his District 5 county commission seat.
“I will do nothing to betray that trust,” Bowen said.
“It has been a good ride for the past 12 years, and I look forward to the next four,” Walden said. “I do appreciate all the work that the county citizens do and the county employees do, and we got some new folks coming on ... and it’s just like the oath we just took. Pat and I will always do what is best for the entire county.”
Aspinwall officially was sworn in last week by Liberty County Superior Court Judge David Cavender. She said it is a privilege to administer the oaths of office and to have the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Liberty County.
“I will always and have always been fair and impartial to the people of Liberty County and its citizens,” she said. “And I will do my best for everyone. I don’t take my job lightly. I have a great group of ladies who work with me and I depend on them, but it is a big responsibility and we can’t please everybody, but I can always promise you that I will do my job.”
Other elected officials were set to be sworn in during a Thursday evening ceremony. See Sunday’s Coastal Courier for that story.