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The first official expression of interest in filling the potential opening for Shelby County judge-executive surfaced Monday, followed immediately by a second on Tuesday.
Republican Michael Riggs, magistrate in District 2, told The Sentinel-NewsMonday he wants to make it known that if Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger should be elected commissioner of agriculture that he wants to be in the running to be his replacement.
Then on Tuesday, Shelby County Deputy Judge-Executive Rusty Newton, also a Republican, confirmed that he also wishes to seek Rothenburger’s position.
Rothenburger, judge-executive since 2002 and unopposed last November in winning his third term, briefly talked of running for governor before filing papers in December to seek the Republican nomination to replace outgoing Ag Commissioner Richie Farmer.
Rothenburger is facing state Rep. James Comer of Tompkinsville in the GOP primary in May. He has said he will stay on as judge-executive until the race is decided.
But should he be elected in November, Rothenburger would resign, and each party would nominate a candidate to be considered by the governor elected in November – incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear is facing Republican and Independent opponents – who would appoint someone to serve until a special election could be held to fulfill Rothenburger’s term.
“I have been thinking about this for quite a while, since Rob decided he was going to run,” said Riggs, who said he wanted to make his announcement now to give the public some idea of who might be a candidate to succeed Rothenburger.
“With Rob running, people are talking about who might replace him,” he said. “And I thought this is a great opportunity to start the dialogue and see who is going to step up and say, ‘I am interested in that,’ and see what their qualifications are.”
Riggs, who was unopposed in November in earning a third term, said when people – friends, family and constituents – first began to express to him their feelings that he would make a good county judge-executive, that he didn’t take their urging seriously, because he knew he could never replace Rothenburger.
But then, he said, he began to realize that no one could.
“Absolutely no one could come in here and do the job that man does,” he said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t have to be Rob.
“I have a good reputation in the community, and people, after they get to know me, they like my philosophies and the way I see things, and my willingness to make sure I’m completely informed.”
Newton, who has been deputy county judge-executive – an unelected staff position – for six years, and is also animal control director as well as Bagdad Fire Chief, confirmed his interest.
“I had spoken with the chairman of our Republic Party [Jennifer Decker] and expressed to her that I was interested in the position,” he said.
“But there’s no way to hide it now. I would definitely be interested in running for the position. Michael and I have not discussed this, but it’s OK, because Michael and I are good friends, and I’m sure I am going to get asked about it once this comes out.”
Said Decker: “We are excited that Michael Riggs is interested, and I’m sure others will be as well, but we’re excited to have such a high quality candidate.”
She also said she had heard from another candidate she felt qualified, though at the time she was not free to disclose that name. That turned out to be Newton.
“We welcome every qualified candidate to come and talk to us. And then our nominations committee will meet and choose the official nominee to go on the ballot,” Decker said.
Rothenburger said he is pleased to hear that Riggs is interested in the job.
“Michael has told me that he is interested in doing this, and I think he would make a great candidate,” he said. “Rusty [Newton] has also expressed an interest in it to me, and he, also, would be well-qualified.”