Rhonda Hardesty to retire after 18 years as district judge

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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By Steven Calhoun/Staff Writer

Chilton County District Judge Rhonda Hardesty will celebrate her retirement on Jan. 12 after three terms in the seat.

Hardesty was elected as district judge in 1998 and has served in the position for 18 years. Her third term comes to an end on Jan. 15.

“This is a very difficult thing for me. It’s something I wanted to do, but … this has been my life for a long time,” Hardesty said. “I decided not to run for reelection this next time because I wanted to finish out my term … and I didn’t want to start something and not finish it.”

Hardesty said she has loved the job, although it is very time consuming and she is looking forward to spending more time doing other things she enjoys.

“I’m an outdoors person, but I’ve always had indoor jobs. My whole life I’ve spent inside and when you get home and it’s late and it’s dark you think the day’s gone,” Hardesty said. “You can’t get it back. You’re not promised tomorrow, and even if you are promised tomorrow, you’re not promised a healthy tomorrow.”

She plans to spend more time with her husband Ray on their farm. They raise horses there, and she said she would like to start a garden as well.

“My father always [had a garden] and I want to do that. I like to watch things grow and give them to people that don’t have anything. I like to get on the tractor and be outside around people that are pleasant,” Hardesty said. “When you come here every day, everybody that’s here has issues and problems and that’s why they’re here. That’s ok, but … I want to just do normal things that I haven’t been able to do.”

Before her time as a judge, Hardesty practiced law in Clanton for 10 years. Before that, she taught school in Jemison while she took night classes in pursuit of her law degree.

While at Jemison, Hardesty started the first girls’ basketball program in the county. According to Hardesty, within three years they played for the state championship.

“I’ve always been very proud of that,” Hardesty said.

Her proudest moments, though, are when she sees people from court who were in a tough situation but are now living happier lives.

“When those kids [we had to remove from their homes] come back, those are the most rewarding things, when they come back and tell you that they’re happy and they’re doing well,” Hardesty said.

She said John Hollis Jackson, Bill Latham, Morgan Reynolds, Francis Speaks and her uncle were lawyers she could look up to when she was young. Hardesty said her father always pushed her to work hard and become a lawyer, and that he thought education was extremely important.

“There’s just so many people to thank,” Hardesty said. “The people here at the courthouse are excellent to work with. Everybody is so good here at working and doing what they need to do. I hope that continues.”

A celebration of Hardesty’s years of service to the county will be held on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. in the county courthouse.