Several seeking probate judge seat

Published 12:43 am Sunday, March 1, 2009

Since Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone officially announced his retirement last week, talk of who will take the office next has been circling through the streets.

From local attorneys to state employees, speculations have spread on just whose next in line for the office that has been filled by Stone for the last 14 years.

Since his term isn’t up yet, an appointment to the seat will be made by Gov. Bob Riley to take Stone’s place when he retires in April.

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Todd Stacy, press secretary for Riley, said he isn’t sure where Riley is in deciding who to appoint, but that he will likely choose from nominations and applications submitted by Pike County residents.

Not many have announced for sure yet, but several locally are considering putting their names in the hat.

Assistant Attorney General Angela Johnson, a resident of Troy since 1987, said she has submitted a resume for the seat.

“I love Pike County, and I love Troy,” Johnson said. “I am a public servant now, and I enjoy that, so being a public servant for my fellow Pike County citizens would be an honor and something I’d love doing.”

Local attorney Matt Baker, who works for Cervera, Ralph & Reeves, LLC, said he will submit his name for consideration.

“I consider the position a great opportunity for me to continue my legal career, serve the citizens of Pike County and of course continue to grow roots for me and my family here,” Baker said.

Baker, who said he has appeared before the Probate Court on several occasions in his time practicing law would be honored to be able to fill Stone’s role.

“It’s important to me the position must be filled with someone that has a true understanding of the law, a desire to continue to research and learn, someone with a great deal of fiscal responsibility, and of course, someone who wants to be a servant for this great community,” Baker said. “For all these reasons, I feel I am qualified to serve as the probate judge of Pike County.”

Others, whose names may have been heard around town, said they haven’t quite decided, or admitted, whether they will seek the position.

Wes Allen, who works in the athletic department for Troy University, said he has received support from the local community, but he wouldn’t say whether he has or will apply to be probate judge.

“I have received some encouragement from a good cross section of the community in Pike County,” Allen said. “It’s flattered me my name has come up for it, but it’s ultimately up to the governor to make a decision.”

Local attorneys Bill Key and Thomas Haigh both said they also might consider application.

“I have expressed an interest,” said Haigh, who has been practicing law in Troy since 1984. “I just think the kind of performance Judge Stone has been doing over the last several years is going to require somebody who has a good working knowledge of the type of work he does and the procedures.”

Since Haigh has worked so closely in the Pike County Courthouse, he said he feels he would be a good candidate.

Key, who has practiced law since 1995, said he also has worked closely in the Probate Court, and he is considering whether he will submit his name for consideration.

“It’s an opportunity to serve the people of this county,” Key said.

Another Pike County local Neal Armstrong, administrative analyst for the Office of Courts in Montgomery, said he hasn’t let the governor know his interest yet, but he might soon.

“I’m interested in being able to serve the citizens of Pike County and continue the excellent service Judge Stone has provided to the county for a number of years and making sure that service maintains excellence,” Armstrong said.

But some others whose names have been tossed around said they are not seeking the probate judge position.

“I have not made myself a candidate for probate judge,” said Adam Drinkwater, chairman of the Pike County Republican Party.

And Jimmy Copeland, who works with Chanel 52, said he also has no interest in seeking the spot.

“I would certainly appreciate someone thinking of me along those lines but I have no interest whatsoever,” Copeland said.

Both Drinkwater and Chairman of the Pike County Democratic Party Jerry Williams said neither party is expected to officially submit a nomination to the governor.

Some others would not say either way whether they were seeking probate judge.

Cliff Hastings, attorney with Cervera, Ralph & Reeves LLC, said he wasn’t ready to comment at this time on the position.

Whoever is appointed, will serve as probate judge for at least three years, until Stone’s term is up for reelection.