As Presiding Judge of the 16th Circuit Court, W. Stephen Nixon has developed an excellent working relationship with Jackson County government, especially with regard to containing costs at the Courthouse. Although he will be retiring from the bench at year's end, that working relationship between Nixon and the County will continue in 2011. Effective January 4, Nixon will assume the duties of County Counselor.
County Executive Mike Sanders named Nixon to the post during the County Legislative session Monday, December 6, and Legislators unanimously approved the appointment. The County Counselor handles legal matters for Jackson County, including claims and assessment litigation as well as delinquent tax enforcement. He and his staff also provide advice regarding the drafting of County ordinances, legislation and contracts.
The County Counselor's Office and County Prosecutor's Office are two separate entities. The County Prosecutor is an elected official, whose office prosecutes criminal cases.
Sanders praised not only Nixon's legal expertise, but also his civic involvement and his willingness, since becoming Presiding Judge in January of 2009, to help Jackson County cut the Courthouse budget.
"The fact that we are able to appoint someone of Judge Nixon's stature is a sign of how far Jackson County government has come in just a few short years," said Sanders.
New Role In The New Year
Nixon had a private law practice from 1976 through Mach of 1998, when he was named a Circuit Court judge by Governor Mel Carnahan. He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and graduated from the UMKC Law School in 1975.
Nixon's judicial retirement will be official December 31.
"As Presiding Judge, I worked with County Executive Mike Sanders, his staff and the County Legislature," Nixon said Monday. "I look forward to this opportunity."
County Legislators applauded the appointment of Nixon. Legislator James Tindall, Sr. (2nd District) cited Nixon's work in the African American community and stated he looks forward to working with the new County Counselor.
Legislator Dennis Waits (3rd District) stated, "Judge Nixon truly cares about the community."
Former Lake Lotawana Mayor
Nixon was elected Mayor of Lake Lotawana in 1995 and resigned during his second term when he accepted the Circuit Judge appointment. He also served as director of the Eastern Jackson County Betterment Council in the mid-1990s. His other civic activities include being director of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation and being a founding member and director of the National Truancy Prevention Association, an organization dedicated to reducing unauthorized absences from school.
Nixon has previously served three local school districts:
•as the People's Law School Coordinator/Teacher for the Independence School District Adult Education Program,
•as a truancy court judge for Smith-Hale Middle School in the Hickman Mills School District,
•and as a volunteer on the Coalition For Excellence In Education in the Lee's Summit School District. Leadership Appreciated
Since December of 2009, William Snyder has served as acting County Counselor. He and long-time Chief Deputy County Counselor Jay Haden will continue working in the County Counselor's Office. Haden returned to Jackson County this past summer after a one-year stint in Afghanistan, where as a Colonel in the Army Reserve he was tasked with helping the Afghan Judge Advocate General Corps establish a new military justice system.
Sanders thanked both Snyder and Haden for the leadership they've shown in the County Counselor's Office over the past 13 months.