Judge Head to retire in December
8-year circuit court judge hails drug court as greatest accomplishment
Associate Circuit Judge Victor Head has been at Barry County's Circuit Court since 2007, and his tenure will come to an end on Dec. 31.
Head, who spent 17 years as a public defender in the 39th Judicial Circuit before earning a judgeship, said he's sad to be leaving the position, but knows it's the right move.
"My wife retired two years ago from teaching, so we hope to spend lots of time at the lake and do some traveling," he said. "Barry County is a great county with great people, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the people of Barry County."
Head said he made the decision to retire this year because if he were to stay on board, he would not be able to complete a full term before the state would mandate his retirement.
"If I had filed for another term, I could go three years before I would be mandated to retire before I fulfill my term," he said. "So, I turned in my retirement so we can have an election instead of having the governor [Jay Nixon] appoint someone. I think this will work out better for everyone."
In his eight years on the bench, Head said his greatest accomplishment is the drug court program, which is available to those charged with felonies that involve drugs or alcohol either directly or indirectly. Those who enter the program may have drug-related charges, or may be accused of theft and say the action was fueled by drug use.
Since its inception in May 2008, the program averages about 30-40 participants in the 18-month program at any given time, and 42 people have graduated from it.
"I've seen it as a positive benefit just in the fact that there have been individuals who have told me it has turned their lives around, and they've become clean and sober from drugs or alcohol or both," Head said. "We've had individuals who have gone from being addicts to coming clean, gone from being unemployed to finding gainful employment, and given back to the community in positive ways instead of being a drain on the community."
Those who choose to enter the Drug Court program must apply and go through a screening process. Once accepted, they must adhere to several requirements, such as weekly drug tests, completion of community service, being required to hold a job and attend counseling and self-help groups.
"The program is a minimum of 18 months, and when they get through, we have a graduation for them, and we also have an alumni group that is fairly active in the community," Head said. "That's good because when someone completes the program, we want them to stay involved with their support groups because, unfortunately, if they stop going to them, there is a good chance they will relapse."
After his years of involvement with the program, Head said he is sad to leave it behind, but plans to apply for a senior judgeship that would allow him to stay somewhat involved.
"I don't know how it will work out, but ... I plan to apply for that to continue helping with drug court," he said. "It's been a real journey because we started out with literally nothing, and we had a lot of fundraisers to get it going and now, we have plenty of grant money to support it."
Drug court is funded through local fundraising, state grant money and federal grant money. The state grant, through the Office of State Courts Administrator, provided $44,000 last year. The federal grant, awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, totals $320,000 and is divided among Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties -- all part of the 19th Judicial Circuit. Barry County receives about $75,000 to $80,000 through that grant.
"I'm proud of how fortunate we've been with the drug court program's progress, and we're always trying to expand it because the need is there," Head said. "We just have to be able to take everyone in."
Head said he doesn't have any specific advice for whomever is chosen to fill his position, but he said the new associate judge will be in good hands.
"Everybody here is great to work with and I've really enjoyed working with all of them," he said. "I hope the next judge has the same experience.
"I wish that person the best and they will be in good hands, because everyone here is willing to help."
Head's position will be up for election to a four-year term this year. The filing period is Feb. 24 to March 25, the primary election will be on Aug. 5, and the general election will be on Nov. 4.
Head, who lives in Monett, earns a $116,000 salary.