It will be a bitter-sweet moment when Greg Howard takes the oath of office and sits on the bench where his best friend once sat.
Howard, 56, was appointed Friday afternoon by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to succeed the late Craig Hedric, who died at a local hospital in November after collapsing in his Liberty Twp. home.
And while Howard said has no doubts he’ll succeed on the bench, he will have to get used to not being an attorney “because this is all I’ve done for 29 years.”
“I’m just overwhelmed right now because I have to think about shutting down my practice,” said Howard, who was first notified of the appointment at around 1:30 p.m. Friday by Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall. He received a call from the governor’s office about 15 minutes later.
“I appreciate the support I received in this process,” said Howard. “The people who’ve supported me are just too numerous to count and too numerous to mention.”
Next for Howard includes meetings with the governor and Ohio secretary of state’s offices, but he should be able to take the bench as early as Feb. 27. Because of prior commitments, he said he’d have to be sworn in before Feb. 17.
Howard was one of three people seeking the appointment to the Butler County Common Pleas Court. In December, Howard, along with Fairfield Municipal Court Judge Joyce Campbell and Peter D. Meyer, a senior patent attorney for Procter & Gamble, were screened for recommendation by the county Republican Party.
Howard edged Campbell for the GOP’s recommended choice. Kasich’s decision came about six weeks later.
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Hedric, 55, was first elected in 2006 and was re-elected in 2012. To retain the appointed seat, Howard must run for election in November 2018.
Now Howard begins to wind down his 29-year law practice and refer cases he’s currently handling to his wife, defense attorney Melynda Cook, and her law partner Chris Pagan, and other area attorneys.
Howard, who’s tried a number of high-profile and capital and death penalty cases, said he will take that experience to the bench.
“It’s an awesome responsibility to have that person’s life in your hands,” said Howard about working death penalty cases. “It’s an emotional moment because you put your heart and soul into these cases.”
While he said all of the county judges “do a wonderful job,” he said working as a defense attorney for nearly three decades “gives me a good perspective.”
“I have a different understanding and different perspective on how to take care of their cases,” he said.