Martin has had ‘quite a ride’ as probate judge

Published 3:41 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

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It has been 29 years and three months since Bobby Martin took up the gavel as Chilton County Probate Judge.

That was in 1989, just after his election in 1988.

“It moves so fast, it’s hard to realize that you’ve been here 29 years and three months. It’s hard to describe how fast it goes,” he said.

Beginning mid-January 2019, Martin will be exiting the Chilton County Courthouse and stepping into retirement. But the countdown begins with the June 5 primary elections.

“It will be strange,” he said.

Serving in the office has been an adventure.

“You have those good days, and you have those bad days,” Martin said. “But overall, it’s been quite a ride. I’ve seen a lot of changes.”

According to Martin, the biggest changes have been a recent surge of varied, “more complex, complicated cases.”

“One of the biggest challenges I have right now is dealing with drugs, which Alabama doesn’t have a law to deal with people on drugs to put them anywhere,” Martin said, explaining that it is difficult to be approached for help without a sure solution to placement and care.

Martin’s second greatest challenge is handling mental illness cases, which he said are a personal passion of his.

“The state of Alabama does not address the mental illness problem, so I have a real challenge finding places for mentally ill people to try to get medicated back properly and where they can function in society,” Martin said. “It’s a bad situation with mental health.”

However, Martin said it has been rewarding to witness the impact his position has made.

“There’s different things and different matters that people get themselves into, and you’re able to help them some type of way,” he said. “It’s been a rewarding experience the whole time of having the opportunity to help people and be one-on-one with people.”

Overseeing adoptions and marrying couples were favorite responsibilities, Martin said.

And adoptions took the cake.

“That, 98 percent of the time, is a happy, joyous occasion,” Martin said. “That’s what one of the main fun things of this job is: Doing adoptions and seeing families get united together.”

Prior to his probate position, Martin served 16 years on the Clanton City Council. He also worked with his family’s business, Martin Funeral Home Inc., where he has maintained a part-time presence as president of the company throughout his years as probate judge.

Martin plans to continue working part-time at the funeral home when he retires, traveling some with his wife and expecting no further involvements in political races.

Although his retirement is in obedience to Alabama legislation forbidding individuals of 70 years or older to run for judge, Martin said it seems to be a good time to set down the gavel.

“When you do get 72 years old, and you’ve been here 29 years, it’s probably time to move on,” he said.

Martin thanks the community for its support.

“I’m just glad and proud that people of the county have elected me [throughout] this time, and I’m glad that they had confidence in me for 30 years — that I’ve been able to help a lot of people,” he said.