Daviess Circuit Judge Jay Wethington, who spent 15 years as judge and several years before that as commonwealth’s attorney, is retiring at the end of August.
Wethington, who was first elected Daviess Division I Circuit judge in 2007, said Monday he will stay on until the end of the month, to complete the August trial docket. After that, court’s docket could be handled by a fill-in judge, until a new judge is elected in November.
Wethington and Leigh Jackson, head of the county public defender law office, are on the Division I ballot. An official from the Secretary of State’s office said Monday there won’t be a special election or additional filing period for candidates to run for the position.
Wethington said he decided it was time to retire last week, while he was working on campaign finance issues.
“Last Wednesday, I was getting ready to inform my election committee about the legalities of raising money; I have a busy criminal docket, and my family was on vacation,” Wethington said. “I said, ‘I’m going to run the numbers, and I found I was losing money” by staying on the bench, rather than retiring, he said.
“I decided I had missed my last family vacation,” Wethington said.
Wethington, who is 68, said he plans to spend more time with his family, and that he doesn’t intend to keep working as a judge after his retirement.
“They asked my if I was going to do the retired judges’ program, and I said no,” Wethington said.
Wethington was Daviess commonwealth’s attorney for 12 years before becoming judge.
“I’ve been very fortunate that the voters have rewarded me with their support, and I think I have rewarded them with steadfast service,” he said.
As commonwealth’s attorney, “I made some state law, and changed the law,” Wethington said.
Cases Wethington handled as commonwealth’s attorney resulted in laws strengthening criminal the definition of rape, and changed the law to allow police K-9 handlers to testify for their service dogs.
Wethington also help found and presided over Daviess Drug Court, which puts people charged with certain substance abuse-related offenses into court-monitored treatment programs.
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“You can really make a difference” as a judge, Wethington said. “Participating and sending people to Drug Court has been really rewarding.
“You learn early on that addiction happens to good people,” Wethington said.
Wethington also served on the OASIS domestic violence shelter board of directors, and helped establish the Sexual Assault Nurse Practitioner program.
Before becoming an attorney, Wethington was a newspaper reporter.
“My training in journalism helped,” he said. “I knew what (questions) to ask.”
Michon Lindstrom, director of communications for Secretary of State Michael Adam’s office, said because there are candidates on the fall ballot for the Division I position, the office will not be considered “vacant” when Wethington retires.
The election will go forward with Wethington and Jackson on the ballot, although the county clerk could include post that Wethington has retired in polling places, Lindstrom said.
Jackson said she has not received any official word about the status of the race, so declined to comment on the election.
Of Wethington, Jackson said, “He has served our county, and he has earned the opportunity to enjoy his kids and his family,” Jackson said.
Wethington said he plans to find things to do in retirement.
“I’m teaching my son to play golf,” he said. “I’m having fun.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse