There are no lame ducks in the Kansas District Judges Association. When District Judge Mike Powers was named president of the organization earlier this month, he took over immediately.
“It’s kind of funny, they actually hand you the gavel, and you lead the rest of the meeting,” Powers said.
KDJA is the voice of district court to the state’s legislative and executive branches.
Powers said being president probably means more now than it did five years ago.
“We’ve been much more involved in working for passage of an adequate judicial budget that, in the past, wasn’t so much a focus,” he said.
Powers said there are 80 vacant positions in district courts across the state of Kansas because state legislators haven’t budgeted enough for the courts to fill them. It’s a list he said Marion County fortunately does not contribute to.
While Powers didn’t have to wait long from when his presidency was announced, it was nearly 15 years ago that he originally expressed interest in joining KDJA leadership.
He joined KDJA’s executive committee in 2006, he has been a board officer the past few years, so the presidency doesn’t come as a surprise to him.
Still, it’s an honor, and for Powers, who took over as chief judge in the district in 1994, a career benchmark.
“I was thinking about that,” he said. “I’ve been on the bench for quite a while. It’s something I don’t know whether it will impact, ultimately, long-term on anything, but it’s nice to know that your peers respect or trust you enough to let you run their organization.”
For Marion County, the effect will be subtle. Powers will be gone more often, as he wants to meet with all KDJA judges before October. Powers said that means fuller dockets, an occasional substitute from former Marion resident and fellow district judge Keith Collett, and more work for his administrative assistant, Anita Svoboda.
Powers thanked his staff, who he said put him in position to handle a leadership role in KDJA while maintaining order at district court.
For KDJA, things will run, pretty much, as usual. Powers said the executive committee usually reaches consensus on issues before pushing forward with them.
“It’s not like when I see them at the conference, that they all stand aside or genuflect or anything of that nature,” he said of his presidency. “I don’t think anybody in the organization’s going to see me and think this is the dawning of the golden age or anything.”
He described his style as “a little more aggressive than some” and he’s confident he will lead effectively.
“If I get involved in something, I have a tendency to seek responsibility. I guess it’s because I’m pushy or something,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s kind of nice to see that in the professional side.”