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Probate job up for grabs

Who will fill the empty seat left by Probate Judge MacDonald Russell when he vacates that position January 19 to assume his position as District Court Judge?

There has been talk around town about the possibility of Russell stepping down early to allow Gov. Siegelman to make the appointment before leaving office himself.

Judge Russell said his decision about whether or not to step down early won’t be an easy one.

&uot;There are those who feel I should stay in office until the last minute and then there are those who think I should let Siegelman make the appointment,&uot; he said. &uot;But I only want to do what’s best for the county and for those I work with in the probate office. At this point, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.&uot;

The two names that have been thrown into the ring so far are Steve Norman and Margaret Pierce.

Steve Norman, co-owner of Norman-Blackmon Motor Co., said it would be nice if Russell vacated early, but it wouldn’t be critical to the replacement’s appointment.

‘I put my name on the list early on when I found out that MacDonald was considering running for District Judge,&uot; Norman said. &uot;I approached him and told him I was interested in the position. It’s hard to say if anything will happen early.&uot;

Norman said he felt that either Siegelman or Riley would make the right choice. &uot;I think Mac is considering stepping down early to allow Siegelman to make the appointment, but that’s pure speculation,&uot; he said. &uot;Josh Hayes is the governor’s legal representative and I’ve talked with him and had other kind individuals talk to him on my behalf. He, of course, is noncommittal about it.

I don’t think it would be a significant advantage for me for Siegelman to make the appointment. I would hope that if Mr. Riley makes the appointment I would be considered as well.&uot;

Norman said he feels the advantage in an early appointment would be for the county’s Democratic party.

&uot;Right now, I’m just a candidate for it, but I’m excited about the prospect of being probate judge,&uot; he said.

&uot;Mac’s going to do what he thinks is best.&uot;

Margaret Pierce, a former Alabama Power employee who retired this past summer, is also on the nomination list for the vacating probate judge’s position.

&uot;I don’t think Russell’s stepping down early will affect me in regard to my possible appointment at all,&uot; she said. &uot;But I anticipate Gov. Siegelman will make the appointment. I would probably have a better standing for the appointment if Siegelman makes it because I’m affiliated with the Democratic Party.&uot;

Pierce said that although, if appointed, this would be her first time in public office, she is qualified because, as a lifelong resident of Butler County, she’s in touch with the community.

&uot;I am very involved in community activities in the county, in my church and at school,&uot; she said.

Pierce says her experience comes from her position with Alabama Power’s Governmental Relations Dept., which involved dealing with elected officials and legislation all over the state and on the national level.

&uot;Prior to my going on board at Alabama Power, I was a legal secretary with now-deceased local attorney William Hamilton,&uot; she said. &uot;I also have worked with one of the state’s largest law firms, so I have extensive experience in the probate arena.&uot;

Pierce said she felt her qualifications would be more of a factor for consideration than whether or not Siegelman makes the appointment.

At press time on this issue, no word had been received from the probate office about Russell vacating early. But even if Russell stays on until January 19, when he moves over to his District Judge position, Siegelman would still have two days to make an appointment for the Butler County Probate Judge seat. The feeling from most camps is that is what will happen.