The new Centre County court administrator didn’t have to go very far to settle in to her new office.
Court Administrator Kendra Miknis takes the reins in that position Thursday, but she is no stranger to the Centre County Courthouse.
Miknis was previously employed with the Centre County Probation and Parole Department as a juvenile probation officer and worked that job until Wednesday. Her office was on the third floor of the courthouse, directly above the one she now heads.
The timing of the opening had a lot to do with the decision to apply for the job, Miknis said.
“It’s a very exciting time for the court in Centre County,” she said.
Miknis had worked as a juvenile probation officer since 2009, first working at the State College Area School District before moving to the courthouse.
Skills learned and contacts made in her previous job will help her as court administrator, she said. Court administration oversees parts of probation and parole, and she’s already worked with the District Attorney’s Office, public defenders, judges and other attorneys as a probation officer, and that familiarity will help with the transition, she said.
Miknis acknowledged that she has some big shoes to fill and credited the person who stood in them with leaving her an efficient and smoothly running office. She replaces longtime court administrator Maxine Ishler, who retired in January.
“I’m very fortunate to have come in after her,” she said.
Though she said she doesn’t see the need to make any operational changes to the office, she has some goals. She hopes to be very visible and strive for transparency, she said.
Since Ishler’s retirement, the position has been filled on an interim basis by Assistant Court Administrator Barb Gallo, also a longtime employee with Centre County courts. She will resume her duties as assistant court administrator when Miknis takes the helm.
“It was a much different experience, one of the highlights of my career,” Gallo said of her time as interim administrator.
The court administrator is a state employee, so the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts is involved in hiring for the position.
Filling a vacant court administrator’s position is a “collaborative process” between the local and state courts, AOPC spokesman Art Heinz said. The president judge makes a recommendation to the office, and there is some conversation between the two before a candidate is confirmed by the state Supreme Court, Heinz said.
President Judge Thomas King Kistler said there were about 10 applicants for the job, and three were interviewed. Kistler said all three came from within the county system and were great candidates.
Miknis was ultimately chosen because of her energy and progressive attitude, Kistler said.
The court in Centre County is designed for one judge, Kistler said, and although three more judges have been added, the caseloads — civil and criminal — continue to grow.
“As we go forward, we’re going to have to look for approaches to expand and we think Kendra has the right kind of attitude to handle that,” Kistler said.