Gael Wood was elected in Tuesday’s general election as the new Franklin County municipal judge.
Wood, a Republican, defeated his opponent, Democrat Bill Stahlhuth, garnering 27,771 votes (68.23 percent). Stahlhuth received 12,840 (31.55 percent) votes.
“I’m delighted,” Wood said. “I’m flattered and I’m proud the voters still trust me to perform judicial functions.”
Wood will be replacing Scott Fulford, who did not seek election. Fulford was named the municipal court judge in December 2017 to replace Judge Craig Hellmann, who was promoted to circuit court judge.
Franklin County Municipal Court began hearing cases in 2012 to expedite resolution of local traffic and zoning violation cases.
A Washington resident, Wood was a presiding circuit judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit from 2001-17. He served as a judge on special assignment with the Missouri Supreme Court, and Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.
He previously served as a municipal court judge in Washington (1982-84) and Owensville (1999).
The state requires circuit court judges to retire at age 70, something Wood was forced to do in 2017. The rule does not apply to municipal court judges and Wood said he’s excited to get back behind the bench.
Before he takes over in the new year, Wood wants to work with Fulford to ensure a smooth transition.
“I want to sit down with him and go over procedures,” he said. “I want to spend more time with him and sit in on a few sessions before the end of the year.”
Wood said once he takes over he’s going to look at maybe changing the start time. He said he wants the court to be accessible and may alter when it starts so people won’t have to take off work to come.
Wood said he also wants to review the fine schedule. He said he wants to bring it in line with other state court fines.
“Punishment should be uniform,” he said.
For example, he said he didn’t think the fine for speeding should be different if the officer writing the ticket works for the Missouri State Highway Patrol or the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
Wood said the fine review would start once he takes office.