Surrounded by family, friends and supporters, more than 60 judges, clerks, deputy clerks and various county officials took their oath of office Thursday afternoon in a courtroom at the Williamson County Judicial Center with Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia (Connie) Clark presiding over the swearing in and administering several oaths.
One at a time, judges in black robes with one hand on their own family Bible and the other raised took the same oath judges in Tennessee have been taking for 200 years. Other county officials followed, some individually and some in groups. Retiring Circuit Court Judge Russ Heldman administered the oath to former Juvenile Court Referee Robbie Beal, who was elected to the Circuit Court bench in August. After the swearing-in, Heldman congratulated Beal and quoted the prophet Micah, “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”
Attorney Denise Andre began a new chapter in her law career as General Sessions judge when Clark, who once served locally as a Circuit Court judge, swore her in.
“You are about to join an outstanding judiciary,” Clark told Andre. “I am confident you are going to be an asset to it and be an important part of the system.”
Judges Tim Easter, Lee Davies, Jeff Bivins and County Clerk Elaine Anderson —who were also sworn in to serve another term — then administered oaths to officials from the county mayor, sheriff, district attorney and public defender, to the trustee, various clerks and deputy clerks, county commissioners and one school board member.
Vanessa Pettigrew Bryan took the oath of office for public defender, succeeding her boss, John Henderson Jr., who retired after 14 years as Williamson County’s only public defender.
Many new office holders had family members at hand to hold their Bibles and celebrate the moment.
“This is a grand occasion,” Beal said when the ceremony was completed. “It’s an honor and I am looking forward to serving the citizens of my district.”
For Beal moving from the Juvenile Court bench to the Circuit Court bench is a transition he is looking forward to making. “It will be a huge difference. It’s a different philosophy. We expect juveniles to make mistakes and we give them more that one chance. That’s not always true for adults.”
Andre hit the road running on Friday, her first day on the bench, with an 8 a.m. bond docket, then traffic court and five petitions for orders of protection, all before noon.
“It is a tremendous honor to be able to serve the community. I will be working with a lot of fine people,” she said. “It’ll be a transition. It’s already been a transition from lawyer to candidate, and now to the bench, but I am looking forward to it and in time I hope to make some positive changes. First I have to get acclimated to being on the bench and administering justice. I just returned from the Judicial Academy and I hope to institute some new ideas.”