HELENA – Helena’s municipal court judge is stepping down from the bench, after more than a decade.
Judge Bob Wood told city leaders this week he plans to retire, effective March 1.
Wood’s term was already set to expire at the end of 2019. The Helena City Commission will appoint a replacement to fill the last months of his term. There will be an election in November 2019 to fill the position for the next four years.
Wood said he had already decided not to run for another term, and that this was an opportunity to let a new judge get used to the position before next year’s election. He said he looks forward to spending more time with his family, including his three grandchildren.
“It was just time,” he said.
Wood was first elected in 2007, and is in his third term as municipal judge. He previously worked as a prosecutor with the Helena city attorney’s office.
Helena Municipal Court handles misdemeanor criminal cases and traffic offenses in the city limits, as well as things like animal control and violations of city ordinances. Wood, the court’s only judge, holds about 50 to 70 hearings a week.
“The vast majority of people that I see every day and every week are nice people who made a mistake,” he said. “The majority of the job is just to try to get people in and out of the system with as little trauma as possible.”
Wood said he’s enjoyed his time as municipal court judge.
“I don’t think you can do this job and just walk away and not have some pangs of regret,” he said. “But I think my wife has plenty of things for me to do, and we have plenty of kids to take care of.”
He thanked the community members for the opportunity to serve.
“I’m honored to have had a chance to be here and do this job for them,” he said. “We’ve been hard on some people, and will be before I leave here, but I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy the community, and I think they deserve the best in the future.”
Helena City Attorney Thomas Jodoin said the city commission will likely start asking for candidates for the municipal court position later this year. Applicants will have to be residents of Lewis and Clark County and licensed as an attorney by the State Bar of Montana.