Nassau County welcomes Judge Wesley R. Poole

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter-News Analyst

Judge Wesley Poole takes oath give by former Judge Robert Williams
Judge Wesley Poole takes oath given by retired Judge Robert Williams

On a windy May 1, 2013, dozens of friends, family and colleagues packed the courtroom of the Nassau County Judicial Annex in Yulee to mark the investiture of Wesley R. Poole as Nassau County Court Judge, Fourth Judicial Circuit in the State of Florida.  Poole, who was formally commissioned by Governor Rick Scott on April 15, 2013, received the formal robes of office during the May 1st ceremony, which lasted more than an hour.

Duval County Judge, Roberto A. Arias, Circuit Court Judge Robert Foster, and Senior Nassau County Judge Robert E. Williams

Wesley Poole has become only the 12th Nassau County Judge since 1877.  He will wield a gavel fashioned out of wood salvaged from the first Nassau County Courthouse.

The Honorable Robert M. Foster, Administrative Judge, presided over the investiture from the bench, flanked by Senior Nassau County Judge Robert E. Williams and Duval County Judge, Roberto A. Arias, who has been serving as Poole’s mentor in making the transition from attorney to judge. 

While many were anticipating a formal, somber ceremony, Judge Foster easily dispelled that notion.  As both presiding judge and master of ceremonies, Foster quickly had the audience chuckling as he introduced current and former elected and appointed officials as well as 4th Circuit Chief Judge Donald R. Moran, Jr. and the many other 4th Circuit judges and county judges who sat in the Jury Box.

Six featured speakers presented Judge Poole with honors or items that he will use in his new position: a gavel, nameplates, a framed photo of the Historic Nassau County Courthouse, a Bible, and a Nassau County Resolution.  In making their presentations to Poole, speakers highlighted the qualities that they believed were key to his appointment and his future success:  diligence, professionalism, ethics, reasonableness and civility.

Price Poole, brother of Judge Wesley Poole delivers remarks
Price Poole, brother of Judge Wesley Poole delivers remarks

H. Price Poole, Jr., Judge Poole’s slightly older brother and until recently his law partner, delivered both heartfelt and humorous remarks on behalf of the family, regaling the audience with tales of his brother’s earlier days and his great friendship with the late County Judge Granville “Doc” Burgess, whom Judge Poole replaces.  As emotions caused Price Poole to pause during his remarks to regain composure, many other family and audience members could be seen wiping away tears.

Judge Robert Foster saved his remarks for last.  He credited both Judge Poole and former Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin for bringing forth an agreement between the Fernandina Beach City Commission and the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners to resolve a longstanding dispute over the courthouse and county seat.  That agreement resulted in the restoration of the historic courthouse and the construction of the judicial annex in Yulee.  He said that the secret of success for previous county judges involved remaining unruffled, calm and professional.  His observation was that Judge Poole is a “man of equal caliber to follow in their footsteps.”

Danny Leeper, Chair of the Nassau County Board of Commissioners, presented Judge Poole with his framed commission.  Senior County Judge Robert Williams administered the oath of office to Judge Poole as Debbie Poole, the Judge’s wife, held the Bible upon which Poole placed his hand.  Following the oath, Mrs. Poole, joined by daughter Paige Poechmann and son Harrison Poole, helped Judge Poole into his new robe.

The mood was lightened with the final presentation to Judge Poole of gag gifts from his family:  a pair of “Judge’s shoes” and a croquet mallet-sized gavel.

As Judge Poole’s mentor, Duval County Judge Roberto Arias praised Judge Poole’s quick grasp of the elements of judgeship, indicating that he was “only slacking in the joke telling department.”  Judge Arias offered four pieces of advice:  put the gavel on the bookshelf; exercise patience in listening; be punctual and follow the advice of Micah to do justice.

Wife Debbie, daughter Paige, son Harrison, take part in the robing ceremony
Wife Debbie, daughter Paige, son Harrison, take part in the robing ceremony

Judge Poole took his place between Judge Foster and Judge Williams to address those in attendance.  He said he was “overwhelmed by the response.”  About 200 invited guests attended, along with other members of the community.  He was overcome by emotion as he acknowledged his many family members, along with the widow and family of the late Judge Burgess.  He thanked the many people who had supported his appointment and the staff of the Judiciary and the Clerk for their assistance and for making the investiture so meaningful.  He also expressed gratitude to those who contributed to the event, emphasizing that no public money was expended.

Many people were brimming over with good wishes for the new County Judge.  Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said, “I’ve known Wesley almost all my life.  I’ve followed his career and admire him for what he has done for the community.  I look forward to working with him in the future.”  Nassau County Commission Vice Chair Barry Holloway said, “I am looking forward to working with one of Nassau County’s own.  I have a lot of confidence in him.”  Fernandina Beach City Attorney Tammi Bach, who occupies the position once held by Judge Poole, described him as “a gentleman lawyer—ethical, level headed and extremely competent.”

DIGITAL CAMERAFollowing the investiture, participants and audience members were able to present personal good wishes to Judge Poole during a courthouse reception catered by Terra Amelia Island.

Suanne-2Editor’s Note:  Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city.  We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

May 2, 2013 12:45 p.m.