DA Ballard opposed by his former assistant

Tue, 05/06/2008 - 4:36pm
By: John Munford

The upcoming political season will be interesting at the Fayette County Courthouse, as incumbent District Attorney Scott Ballard faces a former employee wanting to take his place and three other Republicans seek the office of retiring Probate Court Judge Martha Stephenson.

Ballard will face a challenge from one of his former employees: Rudjard Hayes, who was an assistant district attorney hired by Ballard in 2005 and later resigned in June 2007.

Hayes, 43, who has lived in Tyrone for about a year, also previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Coweta Judicial Circuit from 1996-2004.

Hayes said he resigned from Ballard’s office because he “just couldn’t take it any more.” He said his frustrations ultimately led to his decision to seek Ballard’s job.

“I did not feel the victims of crime in the community were being represented the way they should be represented,” Hayes explained.

Hayes is currently in private practice as part of his wife’s law firm, and he handles employment law exclusively.

The district attorney’s election will be decided by voters in the four-county Griffin Judicial Circuit, which includes Fayette, Spalding, Upson and Pike counties.

Three candidates have filed seeking to take the place of retiring Probate Court Judge Martha Stephenson.

Ann Jackson, 53, who has lived in Peachtree City since 1994, is a hearings officer for the Fulton County Probate Court, where she has worked since 1980 with the exception of one year where she served as an appointed criminal defense attorney.

Jackson has served as a hearings officer for six years, handling decisions in probate cases, working her way up from serving as a clerk when she first started in the office almost right out of law school.

Jackson said she decided to run for office after other local attorneys encouraged her to do so, and added that she loved Fayette County.

“I don’t know what other way to give back than to take advantage of all my work experience,” Jackson said.

Stephen M. Kiser, 58, has lived in Fayette County since 1987 and has been in private practice since 1978 handling probate and small-business related cases.

Kiser has served as the fill-in probate judge on the rare occasion when Stephenson has been unable to be in court due to training or other issues, he said.

“We have the best probate court in the state and I want to make sure we can keep that,” Kiser said, noting that the court has “fantastic employees.”

Kiser lives in Peachtree City.

Jim Whitlock, 62, who has lived in Fayette for 26 of the past 32 years, is in private practice and handles criminal and traffic matters in addition to probate related cases. Whitlock said his goal is to simplify the office’s public interaction as much as possible.

Whitlock said he is running for the office as much for a “change of pace” from his current practice, as he’s been an attorney for 30 years and travels to a number of distant counties to represent clients.

“I’d rather be able to help the people when I can do so from one spot, as opposed to what I’m doing currently,” Whitlock said.

Whitlock lives in the eastern part of unincorporated Fayette.

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