RALEIGH In the last quarter century, the powers and politics on Jones Street have ebbed and flowed with the times. However, one constant over the last 24 years of the North Carolina House of Representatives has been Principal Clerk Denise G. Weeks. Set to retire after opening the 2017 legislative session on Jan. 11, Weeks has been a fixture of the General Assembly since the 1970s, making sure Democrats and Republicans respect the process demanded of representative democracy.Weeks grew up on a farm in Willow Springs and still lived there when she first started in the clerk’s office.”All the rest of my family still lives out there on the farm,” said Weeks. “I moved to Raleigh, which for this position is great. I used to leave here in the wee hours of the morning and drive to Willow Springs. I began work here in 1977, here in the clerk’s office, and I was the youngest person in the office. I was pretty much the special messenger to the [N.C.] Senate.”She held almost every job in the office as she worked her way up.”In 1989 a full-time position became available in the clerk’s office and I was hired in that position,” remembered Weeks. “Then in 1992, the lady that was the clerk retired and I ran for the position in 1993.”The principal clerk of the House is elected by the representatives every two years and is responsible for all legislation in possession of the House, production of the journal of record, member databases, the page program, and serves as parliamentary adviser to the speaker, making sure all the process rules are followed correctly.One of the things Weeks takes the most pride in is being completely nonpartisan in her role as clerk.”I try very hard to stay out of any politics,” asserted Weeks. “I’m not involved in politics, I’m involved in the process. Whenever I announced my retirement, some of the members made really nice comments about my service here, and most all of them said they had no clue how I was registered to vote. ….They don’t know which side of the aisle I might be on.”In 1995 when the Republicans took control there were rumors Weeks may not be re-elected, when a gentleman that was going to be the speaker of the House came to her and said he’d never even chaired a committee so she had to make him look good.”This was Speaker [Harold] Brubaker,” revealed Weeks, “and I said you’re going to look so good they’re not going to recognize you! On opening day when it came time to elect the clerk, Speaker Brubaker made this statement, that the clerk’s position is a professional position and it’s not a partisan position, and that’s the way it’s been ever since.”That’s not to say she doesn’t have her own take on things, or members have not sought to lean on Weeks over controversial items.”There have been some times that I’ve sat out there and thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! This is happening?!’ But I just do my job,” assured Weeks.During one heated debate on a bill to implement the state lottery, a member argued with Weeks that it represented a tax, and thus required a different voting process than she had ordered.”There’s been times where I’ve had to say, ‘You know, I don’t agree with you,'” recalls Weeks. “It was not a tax. Tax is where you have to pay the tax; you choose to play the lottery.”Through it all, Weeks has formed many lifelong relationships and even more memories. She was introduced to her husband of 20 years through a blind date arranged by office staff, met presidents and celebrities, and witnessed the passions of politics first hand.”I recall we had a member stand on his desk one day trying to get recognition from the speaker,” said Weeks. “The speaker still didn’t recognize him, other than to tell the sergeant-at-arms to go get him off his desk.”She likes how no two days have been the same through out her career.”I could come to work in the morning and there will be nothing controversial on the calendar, thinking ‘Oh, I’ll be home at a decent hour,’ and then you get here and the whole direction of the day changes,” said Weeks.Come January, though, she is expecting a little more predictability in her life.”I’m looking forward to traveling, hoping to improve my golf game, and getting to Atlantic Beach when I want to go instead of whenever the House isn’t in session,” exclaimed Weeks. “For so many years this place has determined when I could go on vacation. … For a change, I want to do what I want to do on my time.”Though she will be sorely missed on Jones Street, Weeks leaves behind a legacy that will set the bar for decades to come.
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