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After nearly 25 years on the bench, Manatee County Judge Doug Henderson has decided to retire at the end of September.
Henderson, 67, announced his resignation in an April 12 letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. He will not serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2023.
“The challenges and rewards have been many; I will truly miss my job but look forward to the future with family and friends,” Henderson wrote in his resignation letter to the governor.
At the age of 43, Henderson took the bench in January 1995 after winning an election the previous year to replace retiring Manatee County Judge Walter Talley. Henderson was in private practice working for the firm of Price, Price, Prouty and Whitaker at the time of his election.
A graduate of Southeast High School in Bradenton, then Manatee Junior College, Henderson got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from the University of South Florida and his law degree at the South Texas College of Law.
“I am going to miss it around here terribly,” Henderson told the Bradenton Herald on Monday. “It’s very humbling, all the calls I get, the texts and the emails.”
But Henderson has no plans to leave Bradenton.
“It’s not like I am itching to leave this place,” he laughed.
He has already agreed to fill in when needed at the courthouse following his retirement, as many other retired judges do.
When he was first elected to the bench, it had been a life-long career goal for Henderson. Now looking back after more than 24 years of service, he found it difficult to pick out his best moments.
“There’s been plenty tough calls along the way. I feel like I have helped a lot of people,” Henderson said.
As of his most recent trial period a couple weeks ago, he has presided over 479 trials, according to Henderson, who admits he likes to keep track even if he can’t explain why.
“I have always enjoyed the trials. It’s interesting to see what the jury does with the evidence it’s presented,” he added.
Henderson ran unopposed during his last election in 2016. At the time, he anticipated serving out this entire term.
In November 2017, however, Henderson had to undergo open-heart surgery. Following his surgery, he completed his final semester teaching at his alma mater, USF, after 37 years.
But when not presiding over court proceedings or teaching, Manatee County residents frequently see the Bradenton judge playing in one three bands: The Manatee River Bluegrass Band, Goodbye Eddie and The Piping Hot Jacobites.
Henderson, who was honored in 2017 with the Edgar Price Jr. Humanitarian Award during the 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. awards banquet at the Palmetto Youth Center, intends to stay active after he retires.
“I am going to find some place or places to volunteer,” Henderson said. He also wants to travel.
“There is so much of the country I haven’t seen, particularly out west.”
Retirement will also leave more time for him to spend with his wife, Sue, and their three sons, two grandsons and one granddaughter.
The 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications for those interested in succeeding Henderson. Applications are due May 22. Interviews, which are open to the public, are tentatively scheduled for June 7.
The 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission’s members are Nancy Cason, Ronald Filipkowski, Anthony Rolfes, Carly Lambert, Bonnie Polk, William Robinson Jr., Pat Neal, Hunter G. Norton and Varinia Van Ness.
The commission will submit several possible finalists to the governor’s office for its consideration before DeSantis makes a final selection.