In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Athens County Republican Central Committee voted to recommend Kenneth E. Ryan, to fill the vacancy as the Athens County Probate Juvenile Judge, created by the death of Judge Robert Stewart.

The Committee met in a special Zoom meeting to discuss who they would recommend fill the seat to Gov. Mike DeWine. Ryan, who is on the November ballot for the position, accepted the nomination. No other candidates were brought forward.

“It is with deep humility and appreciation that I submit my candidacy for the office of Probate and Juvenile Judge of Athens County in the wake of Judge Robert Stewart’s death,” Ryan said.

Ryan is running against Zachary L. Saunders (D). The two candidates faced off in a virtual forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Athens County on Sept. 15.

Stewart, 70, died on Sept. 12. He was in his 18th and final year as the Athens County Probate Juvenile Judge.

In the wake of a Judge dying or retiring, Gov. DeWine and the Ohio Supreme Court have the ability to appoint a judge to the vacant seat. If the recommendation is accepted, Ryan will finish out Stewart’s term, set to expire in February 2021.

Currently the Athens County Democratic Party has not announced any recommendations.

Ryan, in his acceptance of the Committee’s recommendation, highlighted many of the items he discussed at the forum, including his years of experience as a teacher at Trimble Schools.

“As a juvenile judge, my experience would make me keenly aware of opportunities to reach children. I was a teacher for 12 years and have more than 11,000 hours of classroom experience with hundreds of students 10 to 18 years old,” Ryan said.

Ryan also discussed his experience with the field of mental health – something that has been a main talking point of his campaign. Ryan has been open about the fact that his experience with the subject began long before his law career, as he had two family members struggle with mental health issues.

“My mother had bi-polar disorder and one of my five brothers had schizophrenia,” Ryan said. “Mom died at 58 due to the ravages of the mental health medications she took dating back to my childhood and my brother Paul took his own life at the age of 40 as a result of his condition which plagued him non-stop for 20 years. Growing up as I did, I learned to cope with and to love and respect people suffering from mental illness in ways that are internalized when you live side-by-side in the same household with such individuals.”

Ryan praised Stewart’s career, stating that he was an “exemplary judge with an outstanding judicial temperament.” He ended his acceptance by thanking the committee.

“I am grateful for your support and humbled by the opportunity to be the next Probate and Juvenile Judge of Athens County,” Ryan said.

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