Why are you running for this office?
I am seeking the office of Judge of Probate because I have a passion for assisting the people who are served by the Probate Court. I want to be the next Judge of Probate because I believe this is the time for Houston County to elect an attorney to the office of Judge of Probate.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
My years of practicing in front of the probate court as an attorney – and my years serving as specially appointed Probate Judge in Judge Cooley’s absence – have given me a broad understanding of the responsibilities of the Probate Judge and the knowledge to effectively and efficiently administer the duties of the office of the Judge of Probate. During the years in which I have served as special probate judge, I have heard and rendered judgments on essentially every type case heard in the Probate Court.
Why do you feel an attorney is best suited for this position?
Houston County is growing rapidly and is among the most populous in the state. Other counties in Alabama have seen the need to elect an attorney to the office of Judge of Probate. In recent years, constitutional amendments have been approved in Alabama that allow counties with a probate judge who is an attorney to have law and equity jurisdiction in the Probate Court, thereby allowing the Probate Judge to hear a broader range of cases. This additional legal authority is a benefit to the county in many ways, but one specific way is that it reduces the burden placed on the circuit court for hearing cases that could otherwise be heard in the probate court. Additionally, in Alabama counties where the Probate Judge is an attorney, the Circuit Court’s workload has been further reduced by fewer appeals and fewer removals of cases from the Probate Court to the Circuit Court.
What are your qualifications for this position?
1) My experience serving as Houston County Probate Judge: I have served as the Probate Judge by appointment of the Circuit Court in Judge Cooley’s absence. I have also served as specially appointed district judge to hear matters brought before the Houston County District Court. During the years that I have served as the acting Probate Judge, I have heard and ruled on all the types of cases that come in front of the Probate Court.
2) My experience as an attorney: As an attorney, I have practiced in the Probate Court for many years and have represented many clients whose family members sought the help and assistance from the Probate Court in the areas of guardianships, conservatorships, adoptions, and commitment hearings. I have also served many elderly as well as people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities by representing their interests in the Probate Court.
3) After many years of representing the interests of those that come in front of the Probate Court, I have a in-depth knowledge of the law relating to probate matters as well as a broad knowledge of community resources that are available to the elderly, mentally ill, and the developmentally disabled. Over these years I have also developed many relationships with community organizations that provide assistance to the elderly and the mentally ill and people with developmental disabilities through counseling, therapy and vocational rehabilitation.
4) My experience with Elections: I have assisted Probate Judge Luke Cooley during elections for many years. I have assisted with voting equipment inspections, voting equipment inventory, voting equipment set-up and have attended poll worker's school on several occasions.
5) My capabilities with Tag Department: I will implement new training to help expedite the service to the public, reallocate employees to the tag department during peak times, establish remote tag department sites within the city of Dothan, provide additional forms and instructions both online and onsite, and expand the already existing remote Tag Department in the county as well as pursue the possibility of remote kiosks
6) My experience with Recording: As a probate and estate planning attorney, I have assisted many clients with legal filings and recordings and I have an in-depth knowledge of the legal requirements of maintaining public records.
What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the Houston County Probate Office?
First, the Probate Office must keep pace with the growing needs of our county. Houston County’s size and continued growth requires an attorney in the position of Probate Judge. Other counties in Alabamahave elected attorneys as Probate Judge, allowing the Probate Judge to hear legal arguments and rule more effectively on matters that are consistent with Alabama law and comply with the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and the rules of evidence. In addition, the Houston County Probate Judge must be able to proactively plan for the growing needs of Houston County by continuing to improve the administration of the public's business by implementing improved processes, new technologies, and additional service locations for the residents of Houston County.