Perhaps the last person at the courthouse whose name wouldn’t have been expected to come up when the word retirement was mentioned was Bill Polk. But yes, it’s true. This past Friday, March 24, was his final day.
However, this is not the first time Polk has retired, and like the one before it, this retirement may not last, either.
He began his career as a bailiff in 2007, after having retired the year before from the Savannah Nuclear Facility in Aiken, where he put in 20 years. He didn’t miss it, at least at first.
“I worked at the Savannah Nuclear facility for 20 years,” said Polk. “Sixty-eight miles each way, 10-hour shifts.”
He didn’t mind the drive too much, and for a brief period of time he carpooled. However, in order to carpool, permission was required from Washington, D.C.
That’s because the person he eventually carpooled with was John Barnes, with the Department of Energy. For those who might not be familiar, Barnes is a native of Walterboro and was the plant facility manager whose major responsibility was ensuring safe and reliable operations; in 2012, Barnes was recognized as the Department of Energy’s Facility Representative of the Year by then-Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
IN THE NAVY
That was not his first stint serving his nation. Polk served in the U.S. Navy from 1970-1975, and for a brief while was in Vietnam. However, most of his naval career was in Norfolk, Va.
“I was in a squadron that trained pilots,” he said. “The planes were my responsibility.”
There was an interesting aspect to his military service.
“In all my years in the Navy, I never once was on a ship,” he said.
BACK TO WORK
Retirement from the nuclear facility didn’t sit well with Polk, and he soon grew antsy, so he cast about for a new career and found one to his liking. He became a bailiff with the sheriff’s office in 2007.
In these intervening years, the job has been interesting, but nothing in particular has stood out, he said, save for the recently concluded Alex Murdaugh trial.
“It’s usually been run-of-the-mill. Even murder cases,” he said.
He’s witnessed and been a part of the evolving manner in which cases have undergone, in particular, modernization.
When he began, jurors were selected from a small metal drum, the kind many people associate with bingo games. Then a computer system was installed. At the time, though, none of the other bailiffs wanted to learn how to use the computer, so Polk took it upon himself to learn and master.
WE ARE FAMILY
Practically from the beginning of his career with the courthouse, Polk has been with almost every juror that has ever been seated. Like a mother hen, he has always been highly protective of jurors. Whatever they had to go through, Polk did likewise, including the Murdaugh trial.
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