Judge Williams is eager to hit the trail
Instead of sporting Oxfords or loafers, retiring Circuit Court Judge Gary Williams has been more likely to be found in Western boots when he's seated behind the bench.
For Williams, who retires at the end of this week, the boots are an expression of who he is when he leaves the courtroom. After serving nine years on Jefferson and Crook County circuit courts, Williams looks forward to spending even more time in those boots — on a cross-country trip on horseback, which he expects to be completed in segments, alongside a wagon train, over a couple years.
The horseback trip isn't the only cross-country trip he has planned. "We have two trips planned: a bicycle trip and a horse trip," said Williams, who will be traveling with his wife, Kris. "The bicycle route is going to take the southern route to the East Coast, New England; we're going to head toward Texas first. It will take us a couple years to complete the journey in segments."
Besides biking and horseback riding, Williams, who lives on an eight-acre property in Powell Butte, with three horses, also enjoys kayaking, running, swimming, and serving on mounted search and rescue and guard teams.
Raised in Dallas, Williams attended University of Oregon, where he earned a degree in social science in 1973. "I moved to Central Oregon in 1975, when my ties to Madras and Crook County began; I was an adult parole and probation officer for the state out of the Bend office," he said, noting that there was no local community corrections office at the time, so he spent part of his time in Madras and Jefferson County.
He and his wife moved back to Salem in 1981, so he could attend Willamette University College of Law, where he graduated in 1984, with a law degree.
"My first job out of law school was working in the DA's office out of Crook County; we moved to Prineville in 1984," said Williams, whose wife got a job at the Madras Hatfield's Department Store, where she worked until they had children.
Both daughters now live and work in Central Oregon: Melissa Scaramuzzo, 31, of Prineville, is the director of Crook County Mental Health and Lutheran Community Services Northwest; and Jessica Williams, 29, of Redmond, has taught at Jefferson County Middle School, where she coaches girls' soccer and basketball, and track.
From 1984-87, Williams served as a special deputy district attorney for Mike Sullivan, who was the Jefferson County district attorney, and Gary Thompson, who was the Crook County district attorney; both went on to become circuit court judges. Williams also worked as the deputy district attorney for Deschutes County from 1987-90, under Mike Dugan, before he was appointed to the position of Crook County district attorney by the governor, when Gary Thompson became a circuit court judge.
After 18 years as the Crook County DA, Williams ran for, and won, the seat on the bench for the 22nd Judicial District, which was open as a result of Thompson's retirement. The district comprises the Jefferson and Crook County circuit courts.
Williams has enjoyed his years of working in Jefferson County. "This community is very supportive — of its kids through programs it offers, its families in the parks and the MAC and school funding, and it's supportive of the courts in the attitude the community has of the court system and the willingness of people to serve on juries."
Although he will be retiring, Williams hopes to continue to work as a senior judge — a position that won't require him to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be available when law enforcement officers need someone to sign a search warrant or detention order.
Throughout his career, Williams has worked with courts, in court-associated roles, but has a particular affinity for his current role as a judge. "I like the ability to determine outcomes of cases," he said. "After 43 years, it's the only job where I get to decide how a case turns out, rather than making suggestions."
Williams offered praise for his fellow judges and co-workers. "The folks I work with are very good," he said. "They're very competent, motivated to do the right things, and they're fun to work with."
Regarding the current bench, Williams added, "It has been a pleasure to sit on the bench with Presiding Judge Dan Ahern and Judge Annette Hillman. Judge Ahern has been on the bench for about 20 years, is one of the two most experienced judges in Central and Eastern Oregon, and does and excellent job running the court systems in Crook and Jefferson counties."