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Probate judge contested for first time in 22 years
lee deloach
Deloach - photo by FILE
    For the first  time in more than 20 years, the office of probate judge is being challenged.
    Liz Johnson, an insurance company owner, is seeking election to the seat held by incumbent Bulloch County Probate Judge Lee Deloach since 1986.
    Deloach had never run for office until 22 years ago, and after being elected to the office, has never been opposed until now, he said.
    Johnson said she has run for office twice before; once in 1996 when she sought election as Florida's insurance commissioner, and four years ago when she ran against Garrett Nevil for Bulloch County Commission chairman.
    Deloach stands on his long-term service to the county, during which he said he has helped add five voting precincts and realigned voting precinct boundaries; played a part in the renovation of the Bulloch County Courthouse and construction of the Bulloch County Judicial Annex; and has "worked constantly on court automation and record keeping."
    Johnson is pushing for change and has ideas that she feels could improve the services the office of probate judge offers.
    "The public office belongs to the people, not to those who have been elected," she said. "Twenty-two years is a long time to hold one local office. I believe change is good - it gives us new opportunities, new vision, new hopes and in many cases, new life."
    Deloach said although he has been in office for 22 years, he is "always looking for ways to improve. As the population grows, demands for services increases, so we adjust in order to fulfill the needs of our county."
    Johnson said she would like to bring new technology to the probate court, including creating a "user friendly web site. We do need an upgrade in office technology."
    She said she is also running for the office because " I believe there is much more that can be done to bring awareness to the services of this office. For instance, most people know little to nothing about how the loss of a loved one affects them if there is no will."
    Deloach stands on his record of constant education and studying about improving services the probate office offers.
    Over the years, he has served in various capacities and completed numerous courses that aid him in public service, he said. Some of these include: having served as president of the Probate Judges Association of Ga.; completed studies at the National Judicial College and maintaining a study in  online information regarding the latest laws and cases; and serving as a     member of the Judicial Council of Ga. ,during which membership he was instrumental in helping to create a third superior court judgeship for the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit.
    Deloach has also served on various panels, committees, and instructional positions involving probate court work both on the district and state levels, he said.
    Johnson said she hopes to improve citizen accessibility to probate court services, extending the service accessibility to include workshops and seminars for those who are not computer literate.
    She is also interested in bringing what she feels is an important issue to light - service to the mentally challenged citizens of Georgia.
    "I feel we need leaders and offices to show compassion in this area," she said. "Georgia is ranked second highest in the severe bed shortage list, with only 18 and a half beds  to serve 100,000 mentally challenged patients."
    On a personal level, Deloach spent six years in the Georgia National Guard, taught school for eight years, and was a real estate broker until his election in 1986. He is married with two adult children and a grandson. His hobbies include working on the family farm in Portal, playing basketball and working with  tractors and Jeeps. He is a Bulloch County native.
    Johnson is also married, with a "blended family" of seven children, nine grandchildren and a great grandchild, has lived in Bulloch County for 13 years after moving from South Florida.
    She enjoys reading and singing as well as "being active in the community," she said.
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