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Norman named new Probate Judge

It’s official. Democrat city councilman Steve Norman will fill the probate judge vacancy left by outgoing Judge MacDonald Russell.

Gov. Don Siegelman made the announcement at 8 a.m. yesterday, his last official day in office.

Gov. Siegelman’s press secretary, Mike Kanarick, released the information in a phone interview Friday morning.

&uot;Gov. Siegelman is sure that Norman will serve the county in fine fashion,&uot; Kanarick said. &uot;We don’t have a prepared statement since this is such a last-minute decision. Russell notified the governor that he was stepping down Thursday at 5 p.m., and the governor made the appointment about 10 minutes ago.&uot;

Kanarick said that no official press conference would be held since the governor and his staff literally were cleaning out their offices as Governor-elect Bob Riley’s inauguration is scheduled for Monday.

For Norman, the announcement obviously was good news.

&uot;I’m excited about my appointment,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m proud of the fact that Siegelman had enough faith in me to appoint me as probate judge, and I look forward to serving the citizens of Butler County.&uot;

The probate judge oversees the issuance of licenses, handling property and estate issues and oversight of elections.

Norman will serve out the remaining four years of Russell’s term as probate judge. The position pays $62,000 annually.

Norman’s appointment will extend the reign of Democrats in county government positions in Butler County. Butler County Democratic Party Chairman John Andrews was pleased by the news.

&uot;The governor has spoken,&uot; Andrews said. &uot;It was his prerogative to make the appointment, and I’m sure that Norman will do a good job. There were several candidates for the position that would have done well; I didn’t have a preference. They were all qualified, and I could have worked with any one of them.&uot;

Andrews also was pleased the Democrats retained the position.

&uot;I have an awful lot of Republican friends, and they are good folks,&uot; he said. &uot;But statewide, most of your rural counties are still Democratic strongholds. I think we are truly a two-party state.&uot;

Butler County Republican Chairman Joan Reynolds was not surprised by the announcement.

&uot;Since Russell told everyone he was going to step down early, we knew Siegelman would appoint a Democrat for the position,&uot; Reynolds said. &uot;All we can do is wait four years and work on having a viable candidate for that slot. We will just have to work toward that since Norman was not elected.&uot;

Russell felt that the outgoing governor’s decision was a difficult one.

&uot;Any of the appointees could have done well as probate judge,&uot; Russell said. &uot;In my resignation letter to the governor, I told him that I knew several of the prospects personally, and that any of them would serve well as probate judge.&uot;

Russell said he was ready to work with Norman and would try to make the transition a smooth one.

Norman was sworn in yesterday by Circuit Court Judge Ed McFerrin at the county courthouse at 11:30 a.m.

Norman, 48, is a Greenville native and a graduate of Fort Dale Academy. He is married to Robyn Patterson Norman and has two sons, Ben, 23, and Paul, 15. He is the President and General Manager of Norman-Blackmon Motor Company.

Norman’s credentials include serving as a Greenville Chamber of Commerce as an Executive Board member from 1990-93 and 2000 to present. He was the chamber’s president in 1994. In 1996, he was appointed to the city council, then elected in 1996 and 2000. He is also a board member with the Butler County Industrial Development Authority and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development.