ALL IN A DAY’S WORK: Probate judge, farmer swap jobs for a day

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2019

The 2019 Farm-City Job Swap got off to a pleasant start for both Pike County Probate Judge Michael Bunn and Pike County poultry/cattle farmer Heath Wesley.

The air conditioner kept the judge’s office comfortable and Mother Nature cooperated nicely when it was time to round up the cows.

For Bunn, the weather is not often cause for concern. For, Wesley, the weather is something he must deal with on a daily basis.

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Two men. Two professions.

When Bunn and Wesley swapped jobs for a day, they each learned to better appreciate what the other does for a living while each reaffirmed his commitment to his own profession.

However, Bunn and Wesley were not completely out of their elements in the other’s work world.

Bunn grew up in Florida around citrus farming and had delved into the plant culture in a hot house. His granddad trained horses and he had some knowledge of cattle that was passed down from the older generation. Wesley had worked with the public as an Alabama Extension agent and also in the insurance business. So, it was not a culture shock for either to swap jobs for a day.

The job swappers talked shop over breakfast and the morning was spent at the courthouse.

Bunn conducted a tour of the courthouse and Wesley had the opportunity to “work” in the tag office, browse through the county’s archives, sit in the judge’s seat in the courtroom, stroll the halls of Pike County’s seat of government and meet those who conduct the county’s daily business.

In the afternoon, jobs were swapped. Bunn and Wesley hit the country roads for Banks and Wesley’s 95-acre farmstead. Their first stop was at the poultry houses and Bunn learned why the houses are called “mega.” He also learned about the technology that has revolutionized the way chickens are grown.

The next stop was the barn where Wesley’s children shelter their show cows. Then, it was on to “round up” about 50 head of cattle, Angus and Charolais. Finding the heard was the hard part. Once the cows were located, clustered in the trees, they quickly followed the “chuck wagon.”

Job Swap Day ended with the bumpy ride around the farm but the experience will linger in the memories of the men who traded jobs for day.

Bunn said he realized that farming has changed dramatically in recent years but “today’s farmer is more educated than ever.”

“The technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that a farmer almost needs a college education to keep up with the changes,” he said. “Technology is firmly engrained in the farming operations and those who don’t think so are mistaken.

“Farming is changing and farmers are more educated than they have ever been. Farming has become very precise and farmers have to keep up with the technology and the trends or be left behind.”

Wesley said the Job Swap opened his eyes to the “job” of a probate judge.

“I thought the probate office was mainly tags and drivers’ licenses,” he said. “I never realized that a probate judge has so many areas to cover. I’m sure Judge Bunn never has a boring day.”

Wesley said he appreciates the dedication of the probate judge to maintain records of public interest.

“I was surprised at the huge amount of community history that is archived at the courthouse and that it is available to the public.”

Wesley said the “job” of the probate judge that made the most lasting impression on him was ordering involuntary commitments.

“The probate judge has to make tough decisions, decisions that affect the lives of not just individuals but of their families, too. That has to be difficult and probably something that stays with you,” Wesley said. “Judge Bunn is a public servant. He has to work with the public on a daily basis. I know from my time working with the extensive office that working with the public can be … taxing. But, chickens and cows don’t talk back.

“I think dealing with the public on a daily basis and making those tough decisions would be the most difficult part of a probate judge’s job. And, I’m sure a probate judge’s efforts are often underappreciated.”

Wesley said, the general public is probably unaware of the many responsibilities and obligations of the probate judge’s office.

“I learned a lot and have a great appreciation for what Judge Bunn does for the citizens of Pike County,” he said. “I know I would enjoy being a public servant but, knowing what I know now about the probate office, I think I’ll just stay on the farm where I belong.”

Bunn said there is no profession he respects more than that of a farmer.

“The county can live without me but it wouldn’t last long without our farmers,” he said. “But, I appreciate the opportunity to touch lives and the probate office gives me that opportunity.”

At the close of Farm-City Committee’s Job Swap, Bunn and Wesley expressed appreciation for each other’s job but decided they can serve best doing what they do best. So, Bunn will remain at the courthouse and Wesley on the farm.