"In the back of my mind, I always kind of thought one day I'd like to be judge," Weathington said. "Recently, I realized, 'one day' was here, or it was going to pass me by."
Now 56 years old, Weathington – who has served as a civil attorney and municipal attorney around St. Clair County since graduating from Cumberland School of Law in 1985 – recently received a letter from Gov. Robert Bentley informing him that he has been appointed to the vacant circuit judge's position, created when Jim Hill announced his retirement at the end of October. His effective start date is Nov. 10.
"This is an important position," said Jennifer Ardis, Bentley's press secretary. "It's an important appointment, and the governor knows Mr. Weathington will serve the citizens of St. Clair County to the best of his ability."
Weathington began his legal career and his life as a county resident while still in law school, serving as a clerk for Hill, then an attorney in Leeds. He credits Hill for much of his legal influence.
"I guess you'd call him (Hill) my mentor," Weathington said. "Really, over the years, we've stayed close. I really consider him to be part of my family. He was very good to me in those younger years, and he helped me learn how to practice law; he gave me opportunities, and I appreciated it."
Since then, he has worked with, by his estimation, "with or on a project basis for every municipality in the county." He has also served as attorney for the St. Clair County Commission, and Chairman Stan Batemon credits him for a large part of the growth that has taken place there.
"St. Clair County is, of course, known by almost everyone as one of the fastest growing counties in the state," Batemon said. "Bill Weathington, as the attorney of that county, gets quite a bit of attention around the state. But the main thing is, he's known as one of the best county attorneys in Alabama.
"Bill not only did the day to day legal work for the county; he has been very active and proactive in the economic development success of the county. He was actively involved in projects such as Bass Pro and Grand River; … extremely active in clearing the legal hurdles that helped create a new hospital for St. Clair County; and also helped guide us through the development of industrial parks such as the one in Steele, and the partnership of the one in Pell City."
Weathington said he also has extensive experience in a courtroom, and believes he is prepared to make tough decisions.
"I will hear both civil and criminal," he said. "Some of the cases will be jury trials; some will be non-jury. In St. Clair County, both of the circuit judges hear every kind of case, so I expect, at one time or another, to get them all.
"When you're the guy making the decision, I think there's a lot of pressure. I will feel an obligation to make every decision be the correct decision. There will be some hard decisions that have to be made."
Batemon expressed his confidence in the new appointment.
"I think he will be an awesome judge," Batemon said. "I think he will be a fair judge, and I think this is going to be a perfect fit for him. St. Clair County really hates to lose him as our county attorney, but we look forward to working with him now as our judge."
Weathington was complimentary of the o
ther county judges – District Judges Alan Furr and Robert Minor, and Phil Seay, now the presiding circuit judge.
"One of the good things is, all these guys are very bright," he said. "They're very knowledgeable of the law; they're very capable. I think, for a county the size of ours, I think that's a tremendous benefit, and I hope I can fit that mold, as well."
Moody Mayor Joe Lee, who has served on the Moody City Council since Weathington was hired, praised him for his work at the meeting on Monday.
"I've been a good friend of Bill's for a long time," Lee said. "I hate to see him go, but I understand why he's doing it. We wish him nothing but the best."
Weathington was equally complimentary of Lee, and the rest of the officials who supported him during the appointment process.
"I'm very blessed that I had the particular support I had, and the amount of support," he said. "I feel very blessed about that, and I'm very humbled by that. I'm extremely appreciative of what everybody did.
"The city of Moody has been extremely good to me, good to work with, supportive, given me a lot of opportunities. Mayor Joe Lee has been on the council since 1992. Joe Lee is like family; I respect and admire Joe Lee, and not working with Joe. One of the hardest things about this appointment was when I went and told Joe that I'd received the appointment, and we began talking about what we were going to do between then and when I no longer represent the city of Moody.
"The same way with the commission. I've been representing the Commission for 18 years. I formed relationships with all these people. I believe Jimmy Roberts has been on the commission the entire time I've been county attorney. Jeff Brown and Stan and Paul have been there for most of it. And I've known Ken Crowe for the entire time I've been in this area. Is there a little sadness? Yes. Am I excited to be taking this next step? Yes. That's the difficult thing about making the change."
Weathington also thanked his wife of 31 years, Annette, his son Andrew, 26, and his daughter Anna Katherine, 23.
"They've been very helpful and supportive throughout my entire career, as well as through this process," he said. "I was a lawyer before they were born. That's all they've known and I've worked in the same office, the same practice. They've always seen my name on the (office) building (in Moody), and it really dawned on them that there's a real change coming."
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.