District judge Hardesty won’t seek fourth term

Published 3:47 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chilton County District Judge Rhonda Hardesty will not seek a fourth term in office, she announced Monday at a meeting of the Chilton County Republican Party.

Hardesty, 60, was first elected in 1998, then re-elected to additional six-year terms in 2004 and 2010.

Her term will end in January 2017.

Behind the bench: Rhonda Hardesty has served as Chilton County District Judge since 1998. (File photo)

Behind the bench: Rhonda Hardesty has served as Chilton County District Judge since 1998. (File photo)

Hardesty said she had been considering retiring from the position and decided to go ahead and make an announcement so that those who would run for the district judge seat could begin their efforts.

The election would be in March 2016, as part of the presidential primary ballot. Qualifying for the election would be in October and November.

“I wanted to give everybody who wanted to run a chance,” Hardesty said. “I’ve been debating about it the last few months. I’m just trying to be fair to everybody.”

Hardesty said she’s not thinking about her decision as a “retirement.”

“I’m not going to sit at home and watch TV,” she said. “I’m lucky that I’m eligible for retirement after three terms. I may start a new career.”

Hardesty said she plans to spend more time with her husband of 24 years, Ray, who will retire in December.

Ray Hardesty owns and operates American Industrial Metals in the Lomax community.

Rhonda Hardesty said she also plans to spend more time training the horses the couple owns.

The responsibilities of being a district judge often prevented Hardesty from pursuing hobbies, she said.

“This job is time-consuming,” she said.

Hardesty taught at Jemison from 1977-1985, starting the school’s first-ever varsity girls basketball team during her tenure. Then, she served as a law clerk for Judge Art Hanes in Jefferson County.

Hanes officiated Hardesty’s wedding and each of her oaths of office as district judge, she said.

“I’ve counted on his mentoring all these years,” Hardesty said and added that she consulted him about her decision to retire.

Hardesty practiced law in Chilton County before becoming district judge.

She said part of her decision-making process was considering the effect her retirement would have on the three probation officers and one judicial assistant she works with. The staff members aren’t merit employees and could be replaced by the next judge.

“It wasn’t just all about me,” she said. “Everybody I work with are good people.”

Hardesty said she hopes the people of Chilton County know that she loves the job.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it has been a liberating feeling since I made the announcement,” she said. “I just think it’s time to let someone else take over a job that I love.”

Though she has a passion for justice, Hardesty said it isn’t always easy to serve as a judge.

“When you have to follow the rule of law and apply it to people you’ve grown up with, that can be a heavy burden at times,” she said. “I’ve tried my best to do that.”