WAPAKONETA — The decision by longtime Auglaize County Municipal Court Judge Gary Herman to retire after 36 years on the bench has set up a two-man race to fill that seat in Tuesday’s general election balloting.
A pair of registered Republicans – Andrew Augsburger of Wapakoneta and David Weilbacher of St. Marys — are seeking the support of voters in the non-partisan race.
Augsburger, 47, is a graduate of Ohio Northern University’s law school and has been a practicing attorney since 1995. For the past 20 years he has served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Auglaize County Prosecutor’s Office, presenting the state’s case in criminal and civil matters.
He said the role of a judge is not altogether different from that of a prosecutor. While the prosecutorial process is adversarial by nature, Augsburger said, the constitutional rights of any person accused of a crime are at the heart of the judicial process.
“As a judge, my role would be to serve as a neutral and disinterested party in looking at the facts, applying the law and making a fair ruling,” he said.
While the Ohio Supreme Court prohibits judicial candidates from delving to deeply into their philosophies on criminal justice, Augsburger said he believes in holding people accountable and responsible for their actions. Yielding the excuses for poor personal behavior does little to encourage those individuals to change their pattern of behavior, he said.
While Augsburger believes “there have to be consequences” for poor personal choices, he also believes in giving a second chance to those who deserve one.
“There have been several times as a prosecutor where I’ve recommended probation in lieu of jail time,” Augsburger said. “Not everyone needs jail time to help them turn their life around.”
Augsburger lives in Wapakoneta with his wife, Candice, and their three children.
“Over the last 20 years I’ve been committed to serving the people of Auglaize County and I believe I am the most qualified candidate to serve as municipal court judge,” he said.
Weilbacher, 46, is a St. Marys native who earned his law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1999. He practiced law in northeast Ohio for several years before returning to Auglaize County approximately five years ago.
While working in the Cleveland area, Weilbacher said his clientele in the areas of general insurance and nursing home defense, medical malpractice, appellate litigation and bankruptcy cases came from all parts of the state.
He has maintained that philosophy at his private practice in Auglaize County, working predominately online to do bankruptcy work through Skype, video conferencing and other internet-based methods of representing his clients.
“I’ve built my practice around businesses and not individuals, and it’s served me pretty well,” Weilbacher said earlier this week. “My clients find me online. The days of having a storefront office are gone.”
A 1989 graduate of St. Marys Memorial High School, Weilbacher wrestled for the Roughriders from 1985 to 1989 and then earned a wrestling scholarship at the University of Findlay, where he would graduate summa cum laude. While at college, Weilbacher was a three-time All-American wrestler, was part of a Division II championship wrestling squad and was named an Academic All-American.
It is that same type of drive, Weilbacher said, that is behind his judicial campaign.
“In wrestling, I wanted to reach the pinnacle of the sport. And with this campaign, I want to reach the pinnacle of my profession,” Weilbacher said. “I’ve accomplished most of the goals I set for myself as an attorney. This is a chance to advance my career.”
The St. Marys resident would not characterize his approach to dispensing criminal justice should he be elected.
“I can’t comment on how I might rule on a particular case, because no set of circumstances are the same. A judge must fairly administer the law as written, and has taken an oath to follow the law in an unbiased manner.”