FLORENCE — Lauderdale County Probate Judge Dewey Mitchell’s tenure will end Oct. 31, but a new probate judge will not be elected until the Nov. 6 general election.
With that in mind, Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Mike Jones said he will appoint Mitchell’s chief clerk, Kristy Thompson, to the position as probate judge on an interim basis.
Jones said the Alabama Code provides that only three entities can make such an appointment — the governor, the Supreme Court and the presiding circuit judge of the county.
“The office needs to be covered,” Jones said. “By making this interim appointment, it will assure that there will be a probate judge in place until at least the election.”
Mitchell, who is retiring from the probate office after 17 years, said under the state retirement system, he must leave office the last day of the month.
“That’s why I can’t stay through the election,” Mitchell said.
The county’s probate judge currently has dual roles. In addition to probate judge, Mitchell also is Lauderdale County Commission chairman. He will be giving that position up as well Oct. 31.
Thompson’s appointment as probate judge will also include the commission chairmanship.
“But that will only be to Nov. 14,” commission attorney Chris Smith said.
In 2011,, county voters decided to split the two positions, creating a full-time probate judge and part-time commission chairmanship.
On Nov. 6, voters will decided between Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for commission chairman, and Republican challenger Quinton Hanson.
Smith said according to state law, the County Commission, including the newly elected commission chairman, will be sworn into office at noon, Nov. 14.
Under Alabama law, the commission cannot meet until Nov. 14.
The election for the new probate judge is between Republican candidate William Smith and Democratic candidate James Hall.
The newly elected probate judge will take office in January.
“The governor could appoint the newly elected person to fill that position early,” Mitchell said. “And under the circumstances, I would assume that happening.”
Thompson has worked in the probate office since 1996 and has been Mitchell’s chief clerk since June 1, 2005.
“I have full faith and confidence that she can fill the role,” Jones said.
“She knows the ins and outs of the office. I have total confidence in her and that the office will continue to run as usual,” Mitchell said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.