|Campbell County Family Court Judge Richard A. Woeste|
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by Robin Gee
Campbell County Family Court Judge Richard A. Woeste has announced he plans to retire at the end of his term in 2022. After a long legal career and serving for two terms, first elected in 2010 and then re-elected in 2014, he said it was a hard decision, but he felt it was time to pursue new interests and enjoy spending more time with his family.
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In a message to his colleagues in the Kentucky Bar Association, he said, "I feel privileged to have been elected as Campbell Family Court Judge for the past eleven years. Given the nature of elections, it is important that notice be given of an elected official’s intent for the upcoming election. After considering my options, I’ve made the very difficult decision to not seek another term as Campbell County Family Court Judge."
He explained that those considering running for the open position will need this time to sign up and begin their campaigns. He said having to declare his intentions so far out made the decision all the more difficult but he said he was looking forward to new experiences.
"It has been a really difficult decision for me, because I like my job; I like being a family court judge," he said. "But Charles Barkley once said, 'Father Time is undefeated.' It’s one of those things where you get older and you have so many years ahead and, quite frankly, there’s other things I’d like to do. I’d like to travel some. I’ve got one grandchild and another on the way."
The judge said he would also like to be serve in the Senior Judge Program. The program supplies experienced judges who can step in to temporarily takeover cases should a judge become ill or otherwise absent. He noted that with many judges retiring this year, he’s not sure if he’ll be needed, but it’s something he would like to do.
A career in law
Judge Woeste earned his undergraduate degree at Eastern Kentucky University and his J.D. from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. He actually began his career as a claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance
"I did that for about a year. After that, I worked with Justice [Donald] Wintersheimer. He was an Appeals Court judge who got elected to the state supreme court...Then I went to work for the federal courts in Cincinnati for a couple of years."
Yet, he said, most of his career, has been spent in Campbell County. He joined his cousin, Bob Bathalter, to form Balthalter & Woeste law office in Alexandria for about 20 years, and has served 11 years so far in Campbell County Family Court.
"It’s been a big responsibility, but one I’ve enjoyed," he said. "I did the job as it appeared in front of me. What I’ve tried to do is resolve problems that people have in the family arena."
His work involves making often life-changing decisions in cases of divorce, domestic violence, neglect and abuse, and child support. It is not unusual at all to see the same families more than once. Things like child support involve interactions over several years.
"It’s why I took it so seriously. You are making a decision regarding a kid’s custody, determining how their childhood is going to be spent, so you have to carefully consider that and try your best with it. Once you make a decision, you hope it’s the best decision; you pray it is."
The pull of family and new experiences
Making the decision to retire so far ahead of time was tricky, he said. "You’re asking yourself to predict the future...but you just have to make the best decision and go with it."
One driving force behind his decision to retire, is his grandson Milo and the another grandchild on the way, he said. Woeste and his wife have four children, three daughters and a son, who all live in the area. He said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family and to watching his grandchildren grow and develop.
The pull of family and the promise of time to explore new things helped in making his difficult decision to retire from a career he loves, he said.
A thank you to those he's served and served with him
"I want to thank all the citizens for electing me back in 2010 and again in 2014. That’s a humbling experience to have your fellow citizens put that kind of faith in you to be elected as a judge for family court," said Woeste.
"I’d also like to thank all the members of the bar, all the attorneys that have appeared before me. They are a good group of people just trying to help other people out with their problems. It has been a good experience. I think we have a good batch of attorneys in this area that come to court and represent folks."
He added that his staff has been a source of strength and support over the years. "With my staff over the years, I couldn’t have done the job without them. Currently it’s Cammi McGlone, case specialist; Debbie Gebelt, secretary; and Erin Vogel, staff attorney; and I’ve had other good staff attorneys in the past. They’ve all done such great work and made my job so much easier."