Kay Ann Wetherington dreamed she’d be here one day.
The new Superior Court judge will be sworn in on Dec. 28 and taking on her official duties Jan. 2. But it seems like she’s been preparing for these responsibilities for decades.
And although she’s had very influential mentors throughout her law career, there’s absolutely no question as to who’s made the biggest impact on where she is today.
“My mother grew up very poor,” Wetherington said. “She didn’t have very much at all. But she worked hard. She didn’t let anything hold her back and she never made any excuses. She became a teacher and then an assistant principal. She has always been the person to instill that hard work ethic in me.”
That's where Wetherington saw first hand that with hard work and perseverance a woman could become anything she set her mind to. Anyone could achieve their goals if they worked hard enough.
Wetherington remembers her days long ago selling fishing lures at Kmart and being a waitress at the Holiday Inn. Even back then she said she was always interested in writing and became very involved in debate in high school. Her dad was a judge and she grew up in that environment so it led to a passion for the law.
Her law career has given her a chance to learn from many people. She’s been a prosecutor and a defense attorney. And for 16 years she’s been in the courtroom which will now be under her direction as judge.
“In all my years in the legal profession I’ve tried to be fair and I’ve tried to seek truth and justice,” she said. “That’s what I’ll be doing as a judge. You have to be fair-minded and you have to follow the law.”
She joined the Rome District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney in 1998. For the last 19 years, she has handled hundreds of jury trials and other matters relating to criminal trial practice including bond hearings, arraignments, probation revocations, civil asset forfeitures and appeals.
The bulk of her courtroom work as a judge will include many of types of cases - any proceedings which fall under the Superior Court’s jurisdiction.
While that may sound tedious to some, Wetherington said she’s just ready to get to work.
“I’m just so grateful to the people of Floyd County for entrusting me with such a big responsibility,” she said. “I hope I’ve conducted myself in a way that has earned the respect and the trust of the community.
But Wetherington is quick to point out that although her job title may seem a bit lofty, she’s first and foremost a Rome resident and a mom.
She loves attending fitness classes at the gym.
“That’s my happy hour,” she said. “That’s my stress relief.”
And though she hasn’t picked up a racquet in years, she’s looking forward to the day when she can get back on the tennis courts where for years she played in local leagues and made many friends.
And she loves to cook, admitting that she doesn’t know how good of a cook she is, but her son certainly enjoys her food.
"I’m a devoted mom,” she said of her high school sophomore. “That’s the toughest job I have. That’s our biggest responsibility is being good parents and good examples to our kids.”
Wetherington said in all the years of her legal career she’s seen so many people come through the courtroom who are good people who made bad decisions. And she hopes that through education and attention, there might be less of those situations in front of her as Superior Court Judge.
As she assumes her new role in the courtroom, Wetherington isn’t nervous about filling the big shoes left behind by her predecessor the much respected and well-liked Tambra Colston. And she’s not afraid of the long hours in the courtroom.
“I'm just a mom and a member of this community like anyone else and I want the best for Rome and Floyd County," she said. "I just want to do a good job serving the people of Floyd County. Rome has wonderful diversity. It’s a great place to raise a family. I want to do the best I can to keep our community a great place to live.”
And she wants to make her mom proud.
In a profession that many still consider a boy’s club of sorts, she wants the woman — whose strength inspired her and who’s work ethic has driven her to new heights — to know how important of an influence she is.
“This was my ultimate dream,” Wetherington said. “To be Superior Court judge is something I have been working hard for. I hope that I can be a role model for young women just as my mom was for me. I want young ladies to know that you can accomplish your goals no matter what other people say or how many obstacles stand in your way.
“It will probably take a lot of time and a lot of hard work,” she added. “But when you achieve the things you set out to do, it’ll be worth it. I promise you that.”