In Dec. 16 IssueBy John ThompsonTimes Journal Reporter
On January 2, at 2 p.m. in the Russell County Courthouse, many newly elected county representatives will be sworn into office. Among them will be our new County Attorney, Kevin Shearer.
Shearer is a lifelong resident of Russell County. He's the son of the late Jack Shearer originally of the Creelsboro community, who passed away in 1994, and Kay Shearer, formerly McGowan, originally of the Eli community and currently living in Jamestown.
He attended Jamestown Elementary and graduated from Russell County High School in 1992. For two years he attended Somerset Community College and then later graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in History and Political Science. After one year at law school at the University of Dayton he transferred and earned his law degree from the University of Louisville in 2000.
After getting out of school, he married Joy Burris who currently works as a teacher at Russell County Middle School. He has two children, six year old Sophie and four year old Jack. He also has a sister, Kim Carey and brother, Nick Shearer.
Shearer was one of those unique children who knew what he wanted to do from an early age. Just out of high school he was able to get a job helping then County Attorney H.K. Cooper "as a law clerk and a gopher. More gopher than law clerk," Shearer said.
He wanted the job because he knew he wanted to be an attorney and saw this as a good way to find out what they do.
"I was given a great opportunity to see how things work, and the nuts and bolts of how to put things together," he said.
The road he took proved invaluable, in his estimation. He said he tells his staff that through his learning process he went from making coffee, to learning the forms, to working the dockets, and talking to officers of the court.
"There's nothing in the office I've not done and the experience is priceless," said Shearer.
Throughout college, he worked at Cooper’s office after classes and during semester breaks. After graduating with a law degree, he came back to Russell County to become assistant county attorney.
He would soon learn the depth of opportunity and responsibility the office holds.
"I've told the staff I've put together that I'm not sure that there's any job within the community that has the opportunity to affect and touch more people," Shearer said.
He listed a number of the boards a position of County Attorney represents as well as criminal court, child support, and with juveniles in juvenile court, dependency and neglect cases, elder law and guardianship, and collecting delinquent property taxes among many others.
"It's as big as you make it," Shearer said. "Statutes lay out a lot of 'you shalls' which gives the county attorney a lot of responsibility. How well the job is done depends a lot on how much time and effort someone is willing to commit to it."
The position of county attorney is to represent the interests of the state in all these cases and in turn, the best interest of the community.
"To streamline it, the commonwealth has a public interest in keeping the road safe, we have a public interest of making sure children are taken care of, that there's no domestic violence and all those things," Shearer said.
While a County Attorney's position encompasses a wide range of duties governed by statutes, Shearer made it clear that "In my opinion a good County Attorney takes all responsibilities seriously and tries to do a good job in all areas" but he agreed that everyone has their passions.
"I had the great opportunity as Assistant County Attorney to handle a great deal of the juvenile issues the last three or four years," he said, a focus that was also very much a part of H.K. Cooper's passion.
"I've always loved kids. I've always been involved in little leagues and anything related to children I've tried to involve myself in, so it kind of spilled over into the court and the area is vast that affects juveniles," he said. "I'm most excited about having a minimum, a minimum of five people on my staff dealing with juvenile issues every day, regardless of whether that's child support, dependency, neglect and abuse, truancy issues, even juvenile criminal issues. That's part of the things I want to focus on," Shearer said, again making it clear that this focus would not be to the detriment of focus on other areas.
Shearer expressed an understanding that all cases differ, and that to formulate a strategy one needs to know where the child is coming from "walking a mile in someone else's shoes," as the saying goes.
Shearer said he felt he had a good rapport with the other attorney's within the county as well as the County Attorney's from surrounding counties. To that point he said he would not hesitate to seek counsel from either.
"If there was a particular issue that I didn't know or wasn't comfortable with and I knew that someone else would have a little more insight on I wouldn't hesitate to call them up and ask what they think. I'm not made that way where I can't ask someone more knowledgeable about a subject; because, we're in better shape, we're a better county, we're a better fiscal court, we're a better court system if we come for a particular purpose, and that is to make everything better," he said.
Shearer was clear as to why he would want to take on a position that requires so much from an attorney.
"I knew what to expect but it's what I really want to do. It's an awesome responsibility," he said. "But it's a wonderful thing. I look forward to it, I really do."
Since the election, Shearer said he has spent time putting together a staff he's proud of and confident in. He said he realized
"I'm only as good as my staff is going to be," he said. "There's only one of me but there will be six or seven who will be a presence in the community. He went on to say that he did not want to be seen as someone whose office is only seen in court, but would be involved in the community in many ways.
Making it clear that he "doesn't want to be in everybody's business," he emphasized that the office would be there when anyone needed, and he hoped the office would be involved in community functions beyond the venue of office of County Attorney.
Shearer has asked Jamestown Attorney Don Byrom to hold the Assistant County Attorney position, and the office that currently holds the child support division will move from Russell Springs back to Jamestown into Byrom's law office.
Rounding out the child support division of the County Attorney's office will be Tony Popplewell, Janice Henry, Janet McQueary and Rita Von Gruenigen. They will take up residence at Byrom's office, located on the square in Jamestown.
In the County Attorney's Office within the Courthouse, along with Shearer, will be Melissa Voils and Nichole Sciegaj, along with Shearer's office.
Finally, Shearer would reemphasize his desire to make himself and his office available to any and all boards, offices, attorney's or citizens whenever needed. His plans are to open half day on Saturday and may offer extended hours on some weekdays in order to better serve the needs of the Russell County.