Tazewell County's veteran state's attorney is running for a judicial seat
Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz is running to become the county's next resident circuit court judge.
Umholtz, a Republican, has served as state's attorney since 1995.
"This was the time in my career where I believe the experience that I have gained as state's attorney and making tough decisions, and actually just finding out a lot about myself, and what it takes to hold the position that has great public responsibility," said Umholtz.
Incumbent judge Paul Gilfillan is retiring from the bench, creating an opening in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.
As a prosecutor, Umholtz said he's concerned about preparing and presenting a case. But as a judge, he said he would also be concerned about making sure that defendant's rights are being honored, and that due process is being upheld.
"A judge is there to make sure the process is fair. And not only that, it needs to appear to be fair, so that people believe in the system, that people have confidence in the legal system," Umholtz said. "Because after all, we can't have justice, unless people believe and have confidence in our legal system."
Umholtz said becoming a judge would also give him an opportunity to look at non-criminal issues in the legal system.
"I look forward to getting involved in other types of legal issues, which are equally important. After all, one of the most important roles that a judge provides is it provides people with an opportunity to resolve disputes in the legal system, if they have competence that they'll be treated fairly," he said.
If Umholtz were elected judge, the Tazewell County Board would select a successor to fill the remainder of his term, which runs through 2024.
"I struggled with this decision for about six months. But I'm confident that the culture that we have built in our office gives me great confidence that if we appoint from within the office, which I believe that there's that should happen, then we will continue that culture of doing what's right," Umholtz said. "So I needed to feel comfortable that I could step out. And I believe I can do that."
Umholtz said if he is elected, he would recommend Mike Holly, chief civil assistant and legal adviser to the county board, to receive the state's attorney appointment.
If he isn't elected. Umholtz said he would be satisfied continuing on as state's attorney.