Mower looking ahead to new judgesPublished 10:40am Monday, January 13, 2014
With Mower County judges Fred Wellmann and Donald Rysavy set to retire this spring, the process will soon begin to select new ones.
Most judges are appointed via the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection, a bipartisan commission that interviews and screens candidates before recommending three to five candidates to Gov. Mark Dayton, who makes the appointment.
It’s possible the governor could allow the vacancies to be elected during the 2014 general election, according to Wellmann, but most anticipate the judges will be appointed.
“That seems to be a good process,” Wellmann said.
Rysavy also expects the judges will be appointed, and they would then be on the ballot in 2016.
After their official retirements, Wellmann and Rysavy may not go far at first. Both intend to serve as senior judges during the transition period.
Rysavy said he’s willing to meet with the new judges and offered his advice: Be yourself, and remember what it was like on the other side of the bench.
“There’s an awful lot to learn in a short period of time to be able to handle the load, and I’m certain we’ll get some very, very good people applying and appointed,” Rysavy said.
Wellmann offered similar advice.
“They’ve got to be their own person, develop their own style,” he said. “They’ve got to keep in mind that they’re working for the people.”
Still, judges can’t make everybody happy, Wellmann noted.
“They’re going to be faced with some tough decisions,” Wellmann said. “They’re going to have to make them.”
While most county and court workers have been through judge changes in the past, Sheriff Terese Amazi noted it will be different with two leaving around the same time.
“We don’t know what to expect,” she said.
Just like the new judges, there will be a learning curve for most employees working with the court system, Amazi noted.
Correctional Services Director Steve King said he’d like to see an attorney working in Mower County appointed.
“I’d be happy with any local attorney getting the judgeship,” he said, adding a familiar face would be helpful during the transition.
Attorney Dan Donnelly, whose worked in Austin for about 10 years, said it will be an adjustment as the new judges take over, but he trusts the selection committee will find the right pick.
Court Administrator Patricia Ball said it will be an exciting time for the new judges, as electronic-filing and eCourtMN ramp up in Mower County.
She recommended the new judges watch, listen and have many conversations with the outgoing judges.
Based on need, Wellmann expects the positions to be filled quickly.
“I’m guessing they’ll fill it pretty fast,” Wellmann said. “If they don’t, they’ll have a big backlog.”
Wellmann noted court business is already being scheduled out past his and Rysavy’s tretirements.
Before the appointment committee, many appointments appeared to be partisan, but that changed with the bipartisan appointment committee.
For the most part, Wellmann said judges avoid the political limelight.
“Most of us are not political animals,” Wellmann said. “We really don’t like political pressures or any politics involved.”