WARSAW — On Monday, Chris Kehler starts a job he views as tailor-made for his skillset.
The 57-year-old longtime Warsaw attorney was sworn in as the first judge of the new Superior Court 4 on Tuesday, June 25, and will begin work in less than a week on July 1.
Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Kehler to the position April 11, after county officials worked for several years to gain permission from the state to expand to another court to offset a growing caseload in the local justice system.
Kehler said he had thought about being an attorney since his days at Warsaw Community High school and went on to get his law degree from Valparaiso University.
After that, he knew exactly where he wanted to work.
“I had no intentions of working anywhere else,” Kehler said after being sworn in before a large audience in the old courtroom of the Kosciusko County Courthouse.
Kehler has one of those rare opportunities to be the first judge of a new court and he likes the idea.
“I think it’s tailor-made for me because I’m going to be doing the kind of work I’ve been doing since 1987,” he said. “I shouldn’t see anything that I haven’t represented clients on in years.”
Kehler spoke briefly after being sworn in by Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed and thanked colleagues, friends and especially his wife, Tammy, and their daughters, Caitlin and Claire.
He also thanked Holcomb for the opportunity and recalled being informed of the governor’s decision.
“It was the coolest four-minute conversation I’ve ever had with Gov. Holcomb. It took me off guard, I was surprised and happy,” Kehler said.
His initial term expires next year and Kehler made it clear he plans to retain the job by running in the upcoming 2020 election.
Afterward, he admitted that in doing so, the swearing-in ceremony doubled as a campaign announcement and was an effort to head off any potential challengers.
He said one of the questions that came up during his interview with state officials was whether he saw the job as a longterm opportunity.
“I made it very clear to them that my intention was that if I was appointed by the governor, that I would run in May and then, ideally, one more term after that. I plan on doing this for the next 12 years.”
Since being appointed, Kehler said he’s been busy working to close his private practice, hire two staff for the court and line up furniture for the office.
Cases will be funneled in from several courts. Much of his caseload will involve divorce cases, civil cases, child support and small claims.
“Beginning Monday, July 1, we’ll have a full docket and we’ll be going full speed. I’m looking forward to that. It’s exciting,” he said.