After more than 30 years serving the people of Wayne County, Chief District Court Judge David Brantley has decided to take a break -- for now.
Brantley retired Saturday, after working his last official day Thursday. After a long and eventful career, Brantley, 65, said it was as good a time as ever for him to step down.
"Everybody that has retired that I've talked to has told me how much they enjoyed it, and I've sort of maxed out my years," he said. "I've got new things going on, a new grandchild, wanting to take a few trips, and I guess I wasn't getting any younger in order to do that."
Brantley said that the timing of his retirement should give whoever replaces him some time to get used to the position.
"It gives someone else an opportunity to not just work three or four months before they have to run," he said. "The end of my term is in 2020, so they have a little over two years to get some experience before they have to run for office."
Born in Pine Level in Johnston County, Brantley earned his bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University in 1974, and his juris doctorate from the same school in 1977. He first became an elected official in 1984, when he became the clerk of Superior Court for Wayne County.
Brantley served in that position for 12 years, before being elected district court judge in 1996. He would later become chief district court judge in 2009, and win re-election unopposed in 2016.
Over the course of his career, Brantley has presided over all types of courts -- criminal, juvenile, domestic and just about anything else.
Attorney Geoff Hulse, who has known Brantley for years, said that he was a judge of both knowledge and compassion.
"David was always a real smart guy and just a nice person," Hulse said. "In this age of politics and so-called public figures, where everybody finds something bad about someone else, he is the real deal."
Hulse praised Brantley for his measured demeanor and dedication to the law.
"I would say his patience, and his sense both common sense and judicial, make for the kind of temperament that you won't always see that often coming through the system," he said.
Out of such a long career, isolating one particular story to tell is difficult, Brantley said.
Often times, when people are at the courthouse, it is not because things are going well, so Brantley has spent decades as a firsthand witness and an arbitrator to some of the most difficult moments in people's lives.
That kind of work takes a toll, and Brantley admitted that seeing so much heartache had been draining. So, for now, he'll take a break to spend time with his wife, Pam, and the rest of his family. That does not mean he's done for good, however.
"I'm going to take a break and enjoy the spring, and maybe take a trip before I decide what to do," he said. "I'm not going to permanently retire, I'll be 66 in a couple months and in pretty good health, as far as I know, so I'm sure I'm not going to be able to just sit back and do nothing."
Brantley thanked the people of Wayne County for putting their trust in him for all these years.
"I became an elected official, I guess I was 33 years old when I became clerk of court," he said. "It's been a terrific honor to have served 33 years in that position and the next position when I became judge. The number of people you've had contact with, the opportunity to have served in an elected position, it's been a real honor and a privilege."