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President Judge Kistler looks back on 20 years of service

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Twenty years is enough.

When President Judge Thomas King Kistler ran for the bench in 1997, Kistler said Friday, he and his wife said they would revisit his position in 20 years and “see how I’m doing.”

“Frankly, if I’m able to do all the things I enjoy doing recreationally — like mountain biking and skiing — then 20 years will be enough,” he said.

And with the turn of the new year, Kistler confirmed he would be leaving his position as president judge by the end of the year, turning the position over and opening a bench in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

“We’re also big proponents of term limits,” he said. “I think that it’s time for fresh perspectives and ideas. You don’t always get that when you keep the same person at the same job for 20 years.”

Kistler commented on the changing face of crime, saying the evolution of technology in the past 20 years has been a great help to the police in tracking down criminals.

“Criminals love to tell people about their criminal behavior,” he said, “and when they do it on Facebook or someplace, that’s a tool police can use.”

The opioid epidemic was also not an issue 20 years ago, he said, and will be one of the biggest issues his successor faces. Fortunately, he said, his successor will be heading a newly formed drug court, which is slated to be up and running by October.

The title of president judge will pass to county Judge Pamela Ruest, he said, who is the next-most experienced county judge. In order to avoid a vacancy in the court system — it’s a very busy court, he said — Kistler will remain in the county justice system until a newly elected person can fill Ruest’s seat.

Kistler said he has confidence in Ruest and his fellow judges, saying he plans on passing the torch before the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition and will be around in case his successor has questions.

“Judge Kistler has been and continues to be an exceptional president judge and we will miss his leadership,” Ruest said in an emailed statement. “He has guided us through some very difficult times.

“Although we have not yet selected a date for my transition to president judge,” she said, “I appreciate his confidence in me, and I will be honored to continue serving the people of Centre County in this new capacity.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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