Mike and Karla Butler are both ‘people persons’By L. AGNES RUSSELL,
With their strong, individual and combined Christian faith, Mike and Karla Butler, both active members at Clarke-Venable Baptist Church, were prime candidates for this column. Mike has been Circuit Clerk of Newton County since 2011, having run unopposed in 2015; and Karla has been a branch manager at BankFirst a little over a year, having been with the bank 11 years.
My daughter, Joanie, went with me to my interview with Mike and Karla Butler. As we began our conversation, a very familiar scenario played out. "Don't I know you from somewhere? Did you ever...?" Joanie's phenomenal memory kicked in. Connecting the Assemblies of God background and the fact that Karla sings, she knew her recognition of Karla could have been from years ago, when she atte
nded Indian Springs Campground, the A/G summer camp, outside of Kosciusko. Joanie had been impressed with a couple of tall, young ladies, a bit older than she, one blonde and one brunette, singing
solos. Joanie said, "They sang like nobody's business!" Yes, the brunette was Karla.
Daughter of Jay (now deceased) and Gloria Jolly, of Meridian, Karla Jolly was born March 23, 1972. She was reared in the Assembly of God denomination, and her grandfather, E. J. Walton, was a Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) preacher. Karla was saved on March 13, 1981, at a Missionette Retreat. She says, "Though I've not always done the right thing, I've been so grounded in my faith. My identity has been through Jesus. I knew as long as I could hold onto Him, everything else was fine."
Mike Butler, son of Bobby and Frances Butler, of Hickory, was born Dec. 31, 1970. He was brought up in the Baptist church, and his grandfather, W. E. Butler, was a Baptist preacher. Mike says that, at a young age, he "knew it was time for me to accept Christ. I'd feel the Holy Spirit every Sunday. But I'd hold onto the pew. Then I gradually didn't have that feeling." He indicated that, if he had died after that, he would have gone to hell, as he had reached his "age of accountability." But God gave him a second chance. He remembered, "A visiting preacher preached one Sunday morning. Again, I had that feeling! I did respond! But it is so easy to turn away. If you do, you're taking a big chance."
Joining these Christian legacies in marriage in the mountains in 2004 with their families in attendance, the Butlers were married 14 years ago this Jan. 17. Their daughter Alex Crenshaw is 19. Jayden, their only boy, is 11, and their youngest daughter, Karmyn is eight.
One evidence of the way they have anchored their children in the Christian faith is their account of Alex's Christian witness as a freshman on the campus of Ole Miss. Though she and her roommate were both enrolled in the pre-pharmacy curriculum, they were quite opposite in their life experiences, with the other girl not having been brought up in church at all. In the first few weeks, Alex was able to lead her roommate to the Lord!
The younger children are also exhibiting evidence of this same inclination. While Jayden recently led a devotional for his baseball team, Karmyn has also shown she has a servant's heart, voluntarily helping an elderly lady in an assisted living home.
When I asked about his most significant Christian experience since salvation, Mike responded, "Seeing your kids accepting Christ and knowing one day you'll be together again." The Butlers used to teach a ninth- and 10th-grade girls' Sunday School class, and both assist in the college class.
Mike earned a degree in electronics at East Central Community College and worked for Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon) for a while before realizing he was not suited for that kind of work. He then became manager of Piggly Wiggly Grocery in Newton, where he stayed for about 20 years. Mike loved his job there, as he does in his present position. Being a "people person, he realized what he liked about it was meeting the people every day.
This led him to the decision to run for the office of circuit clerk when he discovered that Ms. Nancy Kidd was retiring. He emphasized, "I and several other worthy men were running - not against each other, but running for an office, and we became even closer friends than we were before."
Part of the reason he won, he smilingly says, is because the Butlers live in Hickory, he worked in Newton, they attend church in Decatur, and he had a grandfather who was a preacher in Union - which just about covered the entire Newton County territory!
I asked them about the greatest miracle they had experienced. Mike without hesitation declared, "The miracle of marrying her, to get this strong lady right here!" This turned the attention to Karla, who then testified, "When I turned 40, I had a meltdown. I decided that I hadn't done anything significant for God. Though I used to think singing was my only ministry, I realized possibly God had something else He wanted me to do.
Karla realizes now she has opportunities every day in her job at the bank to witness and minister to people. Evidently the election campaign impacted them both, as they spoke of "going door to door, knocking, seeing the mission field we have here in Newton County."
They said they never had anyone be rude to them, but people were instead "so nice." Karla and Mike agree that their job is "to help and make a difference in the community, and to try to get others to see the needs and help the community." They are attempting to live out Mike's campaign slogan, "Let the Butler Serve You!"
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-635-3282.