After 14 years and 6,267 individual indictments, Franklin County Circuit Court grand jury foreman Tom Shemwick is stepping down.
A special tribute was held on Aug. 29 in his honor at the Judicial Center with those he was most closely associated with attending.
Shemwick, a retired fireman who moved to Franklin County from Boynton Beach, Florida, with his wife, Gayle, 23 years ago, explained why he is leaving the post he has thoroughly enjoyed for nearly a decade and a half.
“It was time, I’ve been here long enough,” he said. “It was time to justify a change to get someone younger. I’ve been here a lot of years.”
Shemwick is being replaced by Whitney Blevins who was sworn in on Tuesday.
Tributes to Shemwick were given by court officials who extended their thanks to him for his diligence to head the grand jury every other month for the modest pay of $11 per day.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Blount extended his gratitude to Shemwick, jokingly saying it was commendable that he “put up with us for 14 years. … 14 years is a long time to put up with a lot of stuff from us.”
Shemwick later paid tribute to Blount for his extensive courtroom knowledge, depicting the working relationship the two have had together.
“I can only recall of two times where he had to get the book out,” he said, referring to Blount having to look up cases. “He really knows what he’s doing.”
Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham referred directly to Shemwick and the number of indictments he was involved with.
“You went through a lot of cases with a lot of people,” he said, adding that the grand jury foreman has an immense responsibility in guiding the other jurors.
Graham said grand juries have to be fair and impartial, and Shemwick was always on the proper side.
“We had no issues come up,” Graham said, referring to how grand juries under Shemwick’s direction operated. “The people of Franklin County should be proud of the way Tom Shemwick represented Franklin County.”
Jeff Skidmore, court security officer, said Shemwick’s absence will be noticed, additionally for another reason.
“We’re going to miss you, especially with all the goodies you would bring,” he said.
Shemwick explained later that he took the pay for his duties, and he and his wife provided sweets and snack items for his fellow court officers and employees to enjoy.
Shemwick said he served so long because the job was interesting.
“I enjoyed it,” he said.
Shemwick said former Judge Buddy Perry had asked him to serve as foreman 14 years ago, and he accepted the position.
“What I liked best was that 99 percent of the jurors cared about what was happening and took interest in it and did the right thing,” he said.
Shemwick said Blount and the Circuit Court staff were great to work with.
“We are lucky to have Steve Blount in the court system,” he said, adding that District Attorney Mike Taylor and Assistant District Attorney Courtney Lynch also do a tremendous job.
“We have some very intelligent people here who really care,” Shemwick said.
He said leaving his position will create an absence.
“I’m going to miss what I was doing,” he said, referring to the bitter-sweet part of the job. “Sometimes it’s sad to put someone in jail, but then again, they deserved it.”
In his parting words to the court officers, Shemwick referred to the wooden bench seats and how they are uncomfortable during lengthy court proceedings.
He gave a request to Graham to try to find some way to get cushions for them.
“We need something better for the people to sit on,” he said later.