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Chief Ottawa County judge announces retirement

(Grand Haven Tribune) -- Ed Post would like to say he had a carefully orchestrated plan for his life, but the chief judge for Ottawa County Circuit Court admits his life is more like a pinball machine.

That's why he hadn't contemplated retiring until his wife, Barb, got serious about closing out the career portion of her life.

Barb Post retired in early December from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

Ed Post announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of 2016, which is the completion of his current term.

"It's time," he said. "I have lots of things that I want to do."

The judge said he made his announcement early so anyone wishing to run for the judicial post has time to prepare.

"Running for judge is an expensive and difficult proposition," Post said. "It takes months of anxiety, toil and effort to run successfully — unless you're unopposed," he admitted with a smile.

At the end of the year, the 64-year-old Grand Haven Township man will have completed four six-year terms as judge for Ottawa County Circuit Court.

He also served two years as a judge for the District Court in Holland. That was the one time he had to campaign, and that was against nine other candidates, he said.

Post ran for election to the newly created Circuit Court seat in 1992. He won and took the gavel in 1993.

Post was named chief judge of the 20th Circuit Court in 2000.

The Michigan Supreme Court will appoint his successor as chief judge in October, prior to the election, he said.

Anyone who plans to run for the Circuit Court post will have to file with the Ottawa County clerk by April 19. The new judge will take office on Jan. 1, 2017.

Becoming a judge

Ed Post was born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wis., the son of Jay and Laura Post. The family moved to Allendale when Ed was 5. His father served as a family doctor.

Post graduated from Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from Calvin College and his Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit.

He practiced as an attorney for 15 years in Grand Rapids, taking off a few years in the early 1980s to work as a general manager for Remark Corp. in Grandville. He returned to litigation practice as a partner at Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey in Grand Haven in 1985.

Post said his subconscious started working on him when a friend asked him if he ever thought of being a judge.

"An opening occurred and I naively decided to enter the race," he said. "I had no idea what I was getting into."

It turned out to be a good decision, Post said.

"It's been wonderful," he said. "I can't imagine what else I'd be good at. It just seemed to suit my disposition."

Career high points

Post said working with his colleagues was one of the high points of his career, "and the incredibly proficient staff has made this an enjoyable experience."

"My colleagues are so supportive," he said. "The staff seem happy to be at work and do whatever they can to make my life easier. I'll miss them most of all."

Post noted that the lawyers who work in Ottawa County are skillful and thoughtful people, and he's pleased that the courts have a good working relationship with administration.

"I'm most proud of a very strong and robust ongoing strategic planning process," Post said.

Other items of note are the establishment of Drug Court, the fact that Ottawa County has one of the lowest prison commitment rates in the state and a model juvenile court system.

"We have a nationally accredited detention center which we really try not to use. We try to find alternatives," he said. "Our Friend of Court child support collection is among the highest in the state."

Notable court cases

The highest profile case Post ever worked was the trial of the defendants in the Janet Chandler murder — more than 25 years after the 22-year-old college student was abducted from the motel where she worked in Holland, and then was raped and murdered.

Post said there's been a string of grim cases involving homicides and heinous crimes — "but we're lucky, in Ottawa County, these cases are not the norm."

On the civil side, Post said he handled a very significant trade secrets case involving Magna Donnelly Corp. and Guardian Industries. The trial extended for four weeks, he said. It involved technology used to glue a piece of metal to glass. Magna Donnelly accused Guardian of stealing the technology.

"That was the first big case tried in our new courthouse (opened in 2010)," Post said. "It was the first opportunity to see how our new courthouse would perform. The facility worked out beautifully."

The low points

The worst part of being a judge was during the great recession (2009-2014); Post said he saw a lot of good people fall on hard times.

"When you see a hard-working entrepreneur being taken to court by the bank — it was really hard to watch the folks losing their assets," he said.

Post also laments the fact that there isn't any evidence to prove that the sanctions the court hands down achieve the results that they want.

"There's no study that shows that 60 days in jail is more effective than 30 days for a drunk driver," he explained.

Most of the good results they see from someone moving through the system are the results of a maturing brain, Post said.

"I think every judge should be thoroughly trained in brain and developmental science," he said. "We need to do a better job in risk analysis."

Being a good influence

Post said he hopes he's been a good influence on the people who go through his courtroom.

"There's no feedback loop to speak of," he said.

Sometimes he gets thanked for not throwing the book at someone who's been going through a rough time, or from someone who is ordered treatment instead of jail time. But he doesn't really expect it. It's like the umpire at a World Series baseball game, he said: You can't name him and he probably doesn't get any thank you notes from the players.

"That's good — because it's not about him, it's about the teams," Post said. "They just do their job and hopefully get hired next year."

Why it's time to go

Post said he was an avid birder before he and Barb started a family.

"I would like to rekindle that," he said.

Post is also an avid photographer, focusing on nature, landscape and some photojournalism.

Besides traveling to see his widespread children, Post said he would also like to work on self-improvement, learn new things and have new experiences.

Ed and Barb have two sons, Tom and Dave, in California; a daughter, Jane Morrison, in Portland, Ore.; and a third son, John, in Florida.

"We have them strategically located," he said. "But we need one to move to Yellowstone and one to move to Big Bend National Park in Texas."

Once he's explored a little, Post said he might consider some scaled-back work like mediation or law practice.

Sand in the hourglass

Post said a court administrator once had an hourglass on her desk.

"I used to look at that and think, 'Hmmm, my life has a lot more sand in the bottom than the top,'" he said. "I have a lot of things I want to do and I should do it now."

And besides, he'll soon be 65 and eligible for Medicare.

"This job doesn't have health retirement," the retiring judge noted.

Ottawa County District Judge Ken Post (no relation) is also retiring at the end of this year due to term limits.