‘It’s not a job, but a calling …’

By RON HARRIS
Posted 12/21/18

After serving more than 34 years as municipal judge in

Jasper, Charles Stephens has stepped away from the bench.Stephens was appointed to the position on Oct. 2, 1984, by

the late Mayor Penn …

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‘It’s not a job, but a calling …’

Posted

After serving more than 34 years as municipal judge in Jasper, Charles Stephens has stepped away from the bench.

Stephens was appointed to the position on Oct. 2, 1984, by the late Mayor Penn Woods.

He said Thursday morning following a reception at City Hall that serving as the city’s municipal judge “was not a job, but rather a calling.”

Stephens was joined by family members, colleagues and friends Thursday to celebrate his retirement.

Jasper City Council president Willie Moore presented Stephens a gavel, and city leaders unveiled a portrait of Stephens that will hang in the municipal courtroom at City Hall.

The event also served as a swearing-in ceremony for Jasper attorney Jim Brakefield, who was recently appointed by the Jasper City Council to serve as the city’s new municipal judge.

“I’ve got very big shoes to fill,” Brakefield said.”Judge Stephens is one-of-a-kind. Words don’t describe him. His character is beyond description. To follow in his footsteps in humbling, and for him to allow me to work with him for the past two months and learn from him tells you the kind of person he is. He invited me with open arms.”

Brakefield said one of Stephens’ strongest characteristics is that he treats all people who come before in court with respect. “He did his job with integrity and with honor,” he said.

“I have known Charlie Stephens my entire professional career. I have worked with him as a member of the board at First National Bank, and have enjoyed working with him as mayor. The judge is well respected; a truly honorable man. We wish him the best in his next endeavors,” said Jasper Mayor David O’Mary.

Following Thursday’s reception, Stephens presided over his final court docket.

“It has always been an honor to work with Judge Stephens. He is a man of great integrity and someone I am blessed to call my friend.” Said city prosecutor Greg Ellis. “I have learned a lot from him. It will be odd at first seeing someone other than the Judge up there on the bench. I know Judge Brakefield will do a fine job, but we will miss Judge Stephens.”

“Judge Stephens was uniquely blessed with the judicial temperament necessary to serve our city as municipal judge. He not only possessed the rare ability to apply the law to the facts of the case before him, but to also understood how his decision would affect the human being appearing before him.” Brakefield said. “It’s important to note that he never forgot the person before him was a human being in need of patience and compassion, and when necessary decisive sternness. Judge Stephens proved to be the epitome of fairness and justice. Our city was fortunate to have had such a great municipal judge for all these years.”

As far as his plans for retirement, Stephens said those are unknown. “My wife hasn’t told me yet,” he joked.

“I’ve not had a Thursday afternoon off in 34 years,” he said, “so I’m not sure what I’ll do, other than maybe spend more time in the office.’
There will be some long weekend trips and other family activities, he said.

“I’ll miss this,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to adjust to not being here. I’ll especially miss the people, because we have such a wonderful staff here. Any time you have a successful organization like this, it takes good people. I refer to this as a team, because that’s what it is. It’s great people who I’ll miss.”