Secretary forges half-century legacy

Prosecutor’s office employee most senior Clark County worker in memory

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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When a fresh-faced, 20-year-old Carole Axford started work at the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, she used an IBM electric to type court filings.

There was a staff of six, including the county prosecutor. The work — typing interviews with trial witnesses, sentencings and other miscellaneous court hearings — was daunting for Axford when it involved murders and rapes.

When the prosecutor at the time was preparing for a high-profile murder case, he spared the newcomer the grittiest assignments.

“He gave me a witness list (to type) because he thought I was too young” to work other aspects of the case, Axford recalled.

That was 50 years ago.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more seasoned in their job. Axford, 70, celebrates a half-century with the prosecutor’s office this month and is believed to be the longest-serving county employee in recent memory. The office celebrated with a party for Axford, including a plaque and a bouquet of flowers.

The longtime legal secretary has typed details of the most high-profile cases in county history — including killers Clark Hazen and Warren Forrest.

Axford has worked under five county prosecutors and, she said, 10 presidents.

The staff of six is now close to 100 people — the largest law firm in Clark County. And after so many decades, Axford said she still leaves work happy.

“I love my job — really love my job — still to this day,” Axford said Wednesday with a smile, sitting at her desk in the prosecutor’s downtown office.

After graduating from Hudson’s Bay High School, Axford took classes at Clark College and Vancouver Business College before starting at the prosecutor’s office. She has had many duties — “I’ve done every job there’s ever been in the office,” she says. But most of them have centered around secretarial work and support staff for attorneys.

In 1962, the prosecutor worked for the county part time and also did private law work, such as bankruptcies, wills and community property agreements.

Axford typed paperwork dealing with a gamut of legal issues. She also filled in by taking shorthand at hearings when the court reporter couldn’t be there.

She’s worked with attorneys who later became judges. In those early years, she worked with Robert Harris, a deputy prosecutor who went on to become the longest-serving Superior Court judge in the state when he retired in 2009. She had a nickname for Harris from her work transcribing his court proceedings.

“He was such a fast talker, like a machine gun,” Axford said. “I always referred to him as ‘Machine Gun’ Harris.”

Today, she’s assigned to the docket unit, transcribing trial interviews and the recorded telephone conversations of jail inmates — a job she enjoys for its fast pace.

She plans to retire in October, and hopes to travel to Hawaii, Europe and Australia. Axford said she was told by her co-workers that she’ll have another party.

It’s the least the county can do, colleagues say.

Longtime Deputy Prosecutor Jim David said Axford has had a strong work ethic over the years, putting in hours in the evenings and weekends when the paperwork needed to be done.

“I’ve been here close to 30 years and Carole has always supported our staff,” David said. “I don’t know anyone more dedicated to their job than her.”

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.