The office of the probate judge is responsible for issuing driver’s licenses, vehicle tags and registrations, marriage licenses, name changes, adoptions, probating wills, guardianships, condemnations, mental commitments, annexations and serves as the election official for the county, among other things.
The probate judge serves a six-year term and there is no limit on the number of terms they can serve.
Allison has been the Walker County Probate Judge for 18 years, or three terms. The Walker County native grew up in Jasper and still resides in the city with his wife of 36 years, Cheryl. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Allison graduated from Walker High School and worked in underground coal mining for about seven years. He then went to work for the Jasper Police Department and eventually the Walker County Sheriff’s Office before being elected as probate judge.
“You need a proven record of honesty,” Allison said. “I’ve worked my whole life to build my reputation, to be honest, care about people and treat them like family.”
Allison said that he has also completed three probate judge courses with the University of Alabama Law Institute, attending every one offered since he was elected.
Allison said one of the most touching parts of his job is presiding over adoption cases.
“The probate office has exclusive jurisdiction over adoption cases,” Allison said. “Seeing that everything you did was in the best interest of that child is a good feeling.”
Allison said that he sees about 60 adoptions a year.
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of homes happy and definitely made a lot of children happy,” Allison said. “We have implemented things in this county that the state is now using. We have gone to great lengths to make sure everything is done exactly right. We don’t want anything to come back and disrupt that child’s life.”
Allison said he also enjoys presiding over marriages. The probate office issues more than 600 marriage licenses each year, and, some years, up to 50 percent of those people have gotten married at the courthouse.
“The most marriages I’ve done in one day was 18,” Allison said.
Although those may be his favorite parts of the day-to-day job, Allison said the things he is most proud of have been customer improvements, including relocating the probate office to its current location in a courthouse annex in 1997, putting all the licensing and registration under one roof.
“Having everything right here makes it easier to deal with issues immediately,” he said.
Another item on his list of accomplishments is still ongoing, which is getting all the past records into a database to make them easier to access and to preserve them for the future.
“We worked very hard to get all the records we are trusted with keeping on the computer,” Allison said. “If something happened to the probate office, we would still have those records because they are backed up to multiple sources and stored offsite. We are in the process of indexing those now so they will be searchable.”
In addition to recording the past, Allison say that if he is reelected he plans to keep moving the probate office forward by looking into options to expand the counters that issue licenses and finding a way to cost-justify the implementation of credit card machines.
Landrum is also a Walker County native who graduated from Dora High School, obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama and a law degree from Regent University School of Law.
After law school, Landrum returned to Sumiton, where he lives with his wife, Allison. He has been practicing law in the area for about six years.
“I have always desired to be a public servant,” Landrum said. “I moved home after law school, wanting to work to make Walker County a better place. I think there is a difference between a public servant and politician in that a public servant understands that their primary goal is to serve others, when often politicians are about serving themselves.”
Landrum said he believes a hallmark of this idea is living his life so that people can see his character for themselves.
“In my opinion, an honest man doesn’t need to tell you he is honest or has character,” Landrum said. “He lives it in his life and it is reflected in his daily walk with the Lord.”
Landrum said he decided to run for probate judge because he feels there are areas in which he can improve the probate office’s operations.
“After much prayer and consideration, I sought the counsel of several close friends,” Landrum said. “The resounding answer was clear. I needed to run for probate judge because I could substantially improve the probate office in numerous ways, but at the most basic level because I have legal training and experience, I can hear and rule on complicated legal matters that are presently being removed to Circuit and District Court and contributing to the backlog of cases we have in Walker County. By having an attorney as probate judge, the taxpayers of Walker County will experience significant savings as the process will be more streamlined and efficient and less bureaucratic.”
Landrum said the he would like to see the probate office be more customer service oriented, including making the hours the office is open more convenient, addressing the $5 fee for online tag renewals and taking credit/debit cards in the office.
“We need to make doing business at probate convenient, easy and affordable for the taxpayers we serve,” Landrum said.
Landrum and his wife have explored adoption themselves, making it an issue close to his heart. He believes this is also something that should be reexamined in the county.
“Because children and family are so important to me, one of the issues I am most excited about and passionate about is working on adoptions,” Landrum said. “I know that permanency for children is vital.”
Landrum claims that adoptions in Walker County are being handled inefficiently and at greater expense to the adopters because of the extra filing fees and attorney fees. He also says that fees in the county are much higher than those in other areas.
Landrum vows to work hard to deliver on his promises if elected.
“Whether they know me personally or not, I hope that the people of Walker County have seen through my campaign that I am a hard worker,” Landrum said. “I have been so fortunate to personally interact with so many voters and the resounding message is that they are ready for a change.”