Lena Torres steps down after 24 years of serviceJul 6th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Community
To Lena Torres, being the Clerk of Court for St. Bernard Parish has been about more than maintaining records— it’s been about maintaining relationships.
“I think I’ll miss the people the most— I know just about everyone,” said Torres, who’s last day in office after 24 years was Friday, June 29.
Torres took over the position of Clerk of Court in 1988 following her husband Sidney’s death, three days after he was re-elected into office. She has only had someone run against her twice, Randy Nunez once in 2007 and once last year. Nunez came out on top last fall.
Torres says she could’ve retired when her husband passed away, but as she was his Chief Deputy Clerk, she felt it was her duty to step up to the plate and continue the work.
“I just did my job and enjoyed my work,” Torres said. “I’ve been here since 1988, everyday of my life. I’ve never taken a vacation— I maybe was out once or twice when I was sick or something but I’ve never taken a vacation.”
Torres, who was born in Meraux at Docville Farm, first came to work at the courthouse in May of 1940 for then Clerk of Court Anthony Nunez, as a secretary. Torres was 19 years old.
“I think I’m the only employee left that started in that courthouse,” she said lightly. “The courthouse has been my home, I’ve devoted more time to records and things than I’ve done to my children.”
After working full time for 72 years, Torres says her daily routine will also be sorely missed, as she affirms it’s one of the biggest factors to the efficiency of the Clerk’s office.
“I get in between 7 and 7:15 everyday, and I don’t leave until the girls leave,” Torres explained.
Torres has seen a lot of change in her years working for the parish, but the challenging time in her career was Hurricane Katrina. Although she temporarily relocated to Dallas, then Lafayette, and finally Shreveport, she couldn’t stay away from her home, nor her work for very long. Being a woman of efficiency, Torres says she found the fastest way to get back to the parish.
“My brother-in-law ended up bringing me down in a helicopter and we landed at the port,” she recounted. “Everyday he let me drive his truck, gave us lights, a generator, and a fan, and we got to work.”
That work was salvaging water logged and disorganized records.
Torres says that for weeks, Clerks from surrounding parishes came to help recover, sort, and reorganize the important documents which range from marriage licenses to court rulings. She says that as records piled up, they eventually had to store files in a Bluebell Ice Cream Truck, as it was the only temperature-controlled space available.
The stress of Katrina-recovery began to take a toll on the typically healthy Torres, and after being taken to the hospital for unexpectedly fainting, doctors found that she needed open heart surgery.
“I knew it was the stress, but they said I needed open heart surgery, so I went in and did that,” Torres said matter-of-factly. “I was back a few weeks later and started working again.”
The hard work definitely paid off, and she said proudly that “as of right now, I don’t have to tell anyone I don’t have their records.” Some of the pre-Katrina records are stored out of parish, but she says it never takes more than a day or two to secure the documents.
During her last week in the office, Torres spent her time saying goodbyes and packing her many photos that have given the office a touch of color, and historical perspective. She had so many belongings around the Clerk’s office, that she began to store them in a small office at her son Sidney Torres III’s law firm. Torres joked that she offered to help answer phones around her Sidney’s office, and even told some of the Deputy Clerks that she was more than willing to fill in for one of them if they need time off or are ill. But as far a post-retirement plan goes, Torres is playing it by ear.
“I tell everyone that when I walk out the door, then I’ll decide.”