It's been years since one Panhandle county has seen a new county judge. Taking on the role is a Jackson county native who was sworn in Tuesday at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Judge Wade Mercer is the new Jackson county judge, who says he has big shoes to fill.
"Judge Hatcher has been here for 36 years and he's almost kind of like a legendary status around here," says Judge Mercer.
He says Judge Woodrow Hatcher's longtime service as county judge is a bit intimidating, but he's looking forward to this opportunity.
"After being a hearing officer for a few years, I realized county judge position you can really help people."
Judge Mercer is a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney who has spent the last 5 years working part-time as a hearing officer and working at a private practice.
"The county court is really just an opportunity to feel like you accomplished something," says Judge Mercer.
It's also a job he can more easily define.
"When you're a lawyer and the kids ask you what you do for a living, it's hard to explain," explains Judge Mercer. "But when you're a judge and the kids ask you what you want to do for a living it's something they can grasp and it's just I=I wanted to do pursue and it worked out."
It's also a job far from his original career he set out to do.
"My undergrad degree is in Math Education, taught in the public school system for 6 months," says Judge Mercer, "but didn't have the patience to be a school teacher."
Judge Wade Mercer lives in grand ridge with his wife and four kids.