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Probate Judge to be named Friday

The retirement of Probate Judge Bill Stone must have indeed been the shortest in history.

At least that’s how it looked when he returned to his office at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Without someone officially in office to take his place, Stone said he couldn’t leave without knowing legally how the probate office would regulate without a leader.

“I came in at 7 a.m. knowing we were going to get this worked out,” Stone said. “Nothing in particular was wrong, but we had to all agree on the legal status.”

And though he is still officially retired, Stone has been appointed as special probate judge incase there is an emergency hearing before someone is named to his seat.

The office, which could not be opened early Wednesday without someone to stand accountable, only remained closed for a few hours.

That’s after Chief Clerk Donna (Fannin) Gilliam, who retired Tuesday along with Stone, agreed to expand her duties and stay in office until a new appointment is made.

“My first allegiance would be to Judge Stone and to not interrupt his retirement and also to provide service for the county,” Gilliam said. “Somebody had to be here to open the doors.”

So, by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Stone and Gilliam had worked with the governor’s office to reach an agreement on how it would be run, and doors that were closed to the public were opened.

Gov. Bob Riley, who has to appoint the next probate judge, said he expects to have reached a decision by Friday.

“I finally interviewed all the applicants, and I’m going to meet with all the people who have conducted interviews (Wednesday) or (Thursday), and I want to have it done by Friday,” Riley said.

Until then, Gilliam will continue overseeing probate work and making the deposits for transactions.