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Tim Gould ceremoniously sworn in as Rowan County Superior Court judge

SALISBURY — Standing behind the bench in the Rowan County Superior Courtroom on Friday afternoon, Tim Gould twirled around in his black judge’s robe.

“How do I look?” Gould asked the dozens gathered before him in the courtroom.

Moments earlier, Gould had been ceremoniously sworn in as Rowan County Superior Court Judge by Judge Lori Hamilton, a visiting Superior Court judge from Davie and Davidson counties.

Gould was appointed to the position in early June by Gov. Roy Cooper and will finish the remaining term of Superior Court Judge Anna Mills Wagoner, who retired in May. Gould was officially sworn in prior to Friday, but the ceremony gave him a chance to celebrate the moment with his family, friends and colleagues.

“It was great,” Gould said. “I feel blessed to have all of those people come and support me. I’ve worked with so many of them over the years. It was great to have them there for that special moment, especially some of my family who were able to come up with me.”

Gould is assuming the position of Superior Court judge after 16 years as an assistant district attorney, first in Durham and most recently in Rowan County. During his time as a prosecutor, Gould estimates that he participated in about 100 jury trials, including five murder trials and the entire gamut of criminal court cases.

“I’ve got a lot of experience handling thousands of cases,” Gould said. “I loved being a prosecutor.”

Gould might not have even pursued a law career to begin with if not for one of the most tragic moments in American history.

Gould was born and raised in a small town nestled in the Catskill mountain range of upstate New York, but his family moved to Lenoir, North Carolina, when he was halfway through his college career. Gould moved with them and enrolled at Appalachian State, where he earned a bachelor of science in business administration. 

With many of the nation’s top marketing firms being in New York City, Gould found himself driving about 10 hours from Boone to the Big Apple to interview for jobs. During the same time he was driving back and forth, the World Trade Center was attacked Sept. 11, 2001.

“Unfortunately for everybody, Sept. 11 happened and that just dried up completely,” Gould said. “There were no jobs.”

The watershed moment for the country became a turning point in Gould’s life. 

For the next year, he stayed in Boone and worked with his brother’s mental health services company, played piano for a local church and studied for the Law School Admission Test. While he had his head in the books most of the time, Gould admits he also watched plenty of “Law and Order” in those 12 months. He was eventually accepted into Duke Law the next year and graduated in 2005. 

Following his tenure in Durham and a stint in Caldwell County, Gould became an assistant district attorney for Rowan County in 2009. He’s enjoyed his time being a prosecutor, but said the chance to be a Superior Court judge was one he didn’t want to miss.

“When this opportunity became available, I really thought I could give back in this particular role too because I think it’s important for our justice system that we have judges who are focused on the law, knowledgeable about the law and focused on justice,” Gould said.

Following Wagoner’s retirement ceremony in May, in which she was awarded a Friend of the Court Award from Chief Justice Paul Newby, Cooper called Gould to interview him for the position. About two weeks later, Gould received word from Cooper’s office that the governor would be calling him at 2 p.m. the next day.

“That day, I couldn’t think of anything else,” Gould said. “I was nervous, excited and anxious.”

Gould accepted the call from Cooper in his living room, which is where he found out that he’d been appointed to the position.

“It’s one of those life-changing moments in your life that you’re always going to remember and I’m very grateful (Cooper) gave me the opportunity,” Gould said.

Gould has never worked as a judge before, but he is clear on how he intends to preside over the courtroom.

“Justice has been my guiding principle throughout my entire career, and it’s going to continue to be,” Gould said. “What it means to me, is within the law, you try to do the right thing. You treat every case like the only case before you because every case is unique. Every case is important.”

In anticipation of becoming a judge, Gould said he’s been communicating with other, seasoned members of the bench. He presided over his first cases in Caldwell County last week, which he described as the perfect start to his career as a judge. It’s where his parents still live and where he was a prosecutor for two years.

“I was nervous initially, but then I realized it was criminal court and I’ve been doing this for my entire career, so it was nothing new,” Gould said. “After doing a few things, I was very comfortable. I enjoyed it.”

He even got to have lunch with his parents, George and Anna, who were both in attendance for his swearing in ceremony Friday. Both parents said they were very proud of their son’s accomplishment. His girlfriend, Shelli Breadon, held the Bible as he took the oath.

Gould won’t preside over a case in Rowan County for the next six months. Instead he will be overseeing court in Greensboro. There’s an unofficial rule, Gould said, that prosecutors or public defenders turned judges should spend a half year away from their courthouse to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. The North Carolina Constitution, Gould said, actually requires that Superior Court judges rotate to other counties. Following his stint in Guilford County, Gould will return to Rowan County.

Since he was appointed to the position vacated by Wagoner, Gould will have to stand for election in the next congressional cycle, which is 2022. The position is an eight-year term.

With such a short period before filing starts in December, Gould’s campaign has basically already started. He will be running as a Republican and said he has “conservative values” and supports law and order.

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