For Lincoln County native Elaine Harmon, the court system has been a central component throughout her career.
“Everything I’ve done has been related to the court system,” she said. “I enjoy the challenge of solving problems, and I enjoy studying a task and how to better accomplish it.”
So it was no surprise when Harmon decided to abandon her retirement and return to the political sphere. On Feb. 28, she announced her decision to run as the Democratic candidate for Clerk of Superior Court for Lincoln County.
Harmon’s roots to the county go back more than three centuries, her ancestors’ being one of the six families that originally settled in the area in the 1700s. Growing up, she lived on Carter Mill Hill until middle school, when her parents opted to relocate next door to her grandparents in Long Shoals.
“Those were the best years of my life,” Harmon recalled. “Living on a farm is wonderful. Everyone should have an opportunity to live on a farm.”
During her high school years, the family moved to Lincolnton, where she attended Lincolnton High School, graduating in 1965. At the age of 20, she began working for attorneys Thomas and Jane Wilson.
“They really provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn real estate law and estates,” she said. “I credit them with educating me. In terms of what I learned from them, it was worth more than a college education.”
One of the most memorable moments during her young adult years happened during her first week on the job.
“I will never forget, the first week I worked, I made $12,” Harmon laughed. “He told me upfront, ‘You don’t know anything, so you’re not worth much to me. And when you are more, then we’ll pay you more.’ “
Within only a short period of time, she became an invaluable asset to the law firm.
“I had very strong work ethics from my parents and grandparents, which helped,” she said. “I didn’t mind taking work home with me and working on weekends. If you promise someone that you’re going to have it ready for them, you better have it ready for them. Going above and beyond the call of duty would be a way to describe how I have always approached work.”
Like many native Lincoln County residents in her generation, Harmon first spotted her future husband in high school.
“I knew Leon from high school, but I really did not know him that well,” she said. “But, I knew the minute I met him, I was going to marry him. He is so much like my grandfather — very quiet and easy-going.”
The couple was married in May of 1973, only one week after her husband graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
“We were married in South Carolina, because my first cousin was a minister, and he was not licensed to perform marriages in North Carolina,” Harmon explained. “So we went down to Clover, S.C. to get married. My husband still speaks to my first cousin who married us.”
Like Harmon, her husband also worked for Lincoln County, serving the area for more than 38 years.
“We both have worked in the public sector most of our lives,” Harmon said. “When you work for the county, you learn to appreciate other county employees and their hard work.”
Together, the couple raised their daughter Sarah in Lincolnton’s Corral Park. Harmon said she is excited to say that her daughter will soon be the mother of a baby girl.
Over the course of 22 years, Harmon worked as a legal secretary and real estate paralegal for Thomas and Jane Wilson and later, attorney John Lafferty, preparing state documents, estate proceeding documents and complaints, working closely with the Register of Deeds office and the Clerk of Court. In 1990, she then ran for and was elected as the Register of Deeds for Lincoln County, serving in that capacity for 20 years.
“My entire employment career has been directly related to the functions of the Clerk of Court,” Harmon said. “I consider myself a public servant, and above all, enjoy serving the public and assisting those in need.”
After retiring in 2010, Harmon soon realized that she missed working with the public.
“I miss the mental challenge,” she said. “I miss the public and the attorneys. I truly feel like I could be an asset to the office with my prior knowledge of real estate, estate proceedings. I have a lot to offer to the workforce.”
When Harmon is not occupied with her campaign, she can be found exercising at the local YMCA or at home, busy with her latest sewing project.
“I’ve worked on a project for my daughter, in terms of a bassinet cover, and occasionally I’ll get a wild hair and helping with the quilting at church, but it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to do that,” she said.
She also enjoys sailing and spending time outdoors when she has the chance.
“Lincoln County is very diverse in that we have a lake, a rural area and Lincolnton being central,” Harmon said. “It’s a wonderful place to live because of all the county has to offer. Recreation is just 15 minutes away. We’re sandwiched in between Catawba and Gaston County, and we’re near the mountains.”
Harmon also serves as a member of the Lincolnton Rotary Club, attending the lunch club meetings. Living in her hometown has allowed her to maintain close relationships with her high school friends.
“We have a small group of four or five of us that get together for trips occasionally,” she said.
Family also plays an important role in Harmon’s life.
“I have a strong sense or belief that we’re here to care for our family,” she explained. “Being one of the older grandchildren, I try to keep up with everyone. At Christmas, my female first cousins and their children and in-laws get together and have a little Christmas party together.”
Ultimately, Harmon believes that her experience makes her the best-qualified candidate.
“For 42 years, all I knew was real estate and court proceedings,” she said. “That’s why I feel that I’m the most qualified for the position.”