LEWISTOWN For more than 30 years Rick Williams has served as a judge in Mifflin County, first as a magisterial district judge and then in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas. Now he is moving on.
Williams, 61, announced on Friday that he will step down from the bench in October and seek Senior Judge status and continue to serve Mifflin County on a part-time basis in that capacity.
Mifflin County has two common pleas judges, Williams and President Judge Timothy S. Searer, who has 20 years of experience on the bench. He is facing a challenger in this year's election cycle, Assistant District Attorney David Barron.
Searer stated recently that common pleas vacancies are currently not being filled by the judiciary and that Mifflin County would have one common pleas judge for the next two years.
Williams was first elected to the Pennsylvania judiciary in 1981 as District Justice in Magisterial District 58-3-01. He served Mifflin County in that capacity from January 1982 until December 2005. An election in 2005 for the newly authorized second judgeship for Mifflin County resulted in Williams capturing both the Democratic and Republican nominations in the May primary. He officially took office in January 2006 and has served continuously since that time.
"Retirement is something that's been in the back of my mind since I turned 61 years old last year and, thus, was eligible for full retirement. I've given this a lot of thought and there were a number of factors that went into this decision. But the biggest factor was that I just felt it was time to take this step. The idea of retiring can be pretty unsettling but I feel comfortable about it at this point," Williams said.
Williams said that during his 31-plus years on the bench, there have been significant changes in the Mifflin County community which have resulted in changes and innovations in the local judicial system. One is the establishment of a community-wide prevention effort known as Communities That Care, which was started in 2000 and focuses on prevention of negative behaviors among youth amd is still going strong today. In addition there are Specialty Courts, specifically a Juvenile Drug Court that held its first session in August of 2006 shortly after Williams came on as the second Judge.
"We now have an Adult Treatment Court as well, a central court system that was instituted for the more efficient processing of criminal cases and mass custody days that are scheduled frequently throughout the year in an attempt to bring a timely resolution to that type of case," Williams said.
Williams said the court also reviews aged criminal cases and follows up on collections of fines and costs which have resulted in significant increases in revenue to the county.
"I also want to express how fortunate I've been to work with good people over the years, from Judge Searer, who I worked with as a district justice and then as a colleague on the common pleas bench, to the wonderful staff I've had at both of those levels of the judiciary, to the dedicated workers in the court-related offices, to local government officials and to those I've had contact with in community service groups. I can assure the citizens of Mifflin County there are top-notch people who are passionate about working for the benefit and betterment of our community and it's been rewarding for me to be, with them, a part of that effort," Williams said.
Mifflin County Assistant Public Defender John McCullough said he thinks Williams has done a fantastic job as a Common Pleas judge.
"I have the utmost respect for him I think Mifflin County is losing a great full time judge," McCullough said.