AUGUSTA, Maine — The state’s longest-serving probate judge will resign Jan. 1 after 50 years on the bench.
Gov. Paul LePage announced Wednesday that he had accepted the resignation of Penobscot County Judge of Probate Allan Woodcock Jr., 92, of Bangor.
“I really don’t want to retire but I feel it’s appropriate at this time,” Woodcock said Tuesday. “One thing I’m not going to do is lie in bed. I’m going to get up early and face the day and be happy with it.”
Woodcock said he made his resignation effective Jan. 1, 2013, because he took office on Jan. 1, 1963.
“That makes it a flat 50 years,” he said.
County probate judges are the only elected judges in the state.
Maine’s probate judges handle estates, wills, guardianships, conservatorships, adoptions, changes of name and related matters. In most counties, including Penobscot County, the position is part time. A majority of probate judges are attorneys who maintain a private practice, as Woodcock did when he first was elected in 1962. He began practicing law in 1948.
“I like to think I’ve done the best I can in that job for all these many years,” Woodcock said Tuesday. “It’s a court of limited jurisdiction but it’s important. We’re deciding the rights of the people.”
Adoptions were always his favorite part of the job.
“To see parents so elated and joyous at bringing a child into their families is quite a thrill,” he said.
Penobscot County Register of Probate Susan Almy said Wednesday that probate judges from other counties have agreed to sit on the bench in Bangor until a replacement is appointed to fill Woodcock’s unexpired term.
A Republican, Woodcock was re-elected to a four-year term in 2010. Woodcock also has served on the Bangor City Council and in the Maine House of Representatives and Maine Senate.
“He is truly an institution himself,” Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, said of Woodcock at a luncheon to honor Woodcock that was held last month in Bangor. “And he always puts the interest of the public before the institution.”
Saufley’s remarks and those of others were released after the event.
“Of all the bills he sponsored, the one that most often brings a smile is one he offered to the fish and game committee — ‘A Bill to Establish an Open Season on Woodcock,'” she said at the event.
LePage also praised Woodcock in announcing the judge’s resignation.
“I want to thank Judge Woodcock for his years of service to the people of Penobscot County as judge of probate, and wish him the best in his very well-earned retirement,” the governor said in a press release issued Wednesday.
Pursuant to Maine law, LePage will select a replacement for Woodcock from a list of recommendations made by the Penobscot County Republican Committee, according to the governor’s office.
The committee’s next business meeting is scheduled to be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. The selection of a replacement for Woodcock was not on the agenda Wednesday.