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Judge Sharon Atack Won’t Run Again This Year, Opening 2nd Flagler Judgeship in 2 Years

| January 4, 2012

County Judge Sharon Atack. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Judge Sharon Atack has been on the bench since Feb. 13, 1995, when, appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, she began filling out the 21 months left on her late husband William Atack’s term. She was elected to the position in 1996, and has been re-elected twice since. Earlier today, Atack, 65, announced that she would not run in November.

“I have just gotten to that age where I didn’t think I would want to work for another six-year term. It just is that time in life,” Atack said, citing personal reasons and, in part, the changing nature of the job. The job has gotten a lot busier, a lot harder. The number of cases increase every year,” she said. “That might be part of it.”

Flagler County has two circuit judges and one county judge. It was certified for an additional circuit judge several years ago and a county judge last year. In other words, the judicial system recognizes the need for more judges. But the Legislature is not appropriating the money necessary to make good on the certification, leaving existing judges to share the mounting burdens.

“In the past few years with the recession, in county court, there are many, many cases of people who really had never seen the inside of a courtroom before. They’re in county court because they haven’t been able to pay their credit card bills or because they can’t pay their homeowner association fees, and there’s just a lot of cases like that I think that the economy has directly affected the court system in that way. Then on the criminal side of course we’ve seen an increase in shoplifting and cases involving domestic violence. I think there’s a lot of pressure on families, economic pressures, that in some cases result in those kinds of things. So it’s not a happy place.”

Atack will retire on Jan. 7, 2013. The retirement means that a Flagler County judgeship will open for the second time in two years, likely drawing a large number of candidates. Circuit Judge Kim Hammond’s retirement at the end of 2010 drew six candidates, all men, with Dennis Craig winning the election.

“I bet you’re going to see a woman running in this race—at least one. I think there’s going to be a lot of people who run,” Atack said. She hopes to return as a senior judge once the required year away from the bench has elapsed.

“It’s a well-deserved time off,” said Barbara Revels, a long-time friend of Atack’s who chairs the Flagler County Commission. Revels, a Realtor, had helped the Atacks find a home when they moved to Flagler Beach, and ran William Atack’s campaign for the judgeship. “She saw herself staying a lot longer but it was a personal decision. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone who takes that type of responsibility as seriously as she does, sometimes to her own detriment. It will be a huge loss to the county.”

Flagler County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano has been working with Atack for several years. “I’m both heartbroken and happy for her, she’s such a wonderful person, has been a great colleague and I just loved to be around her and talk to her. I’ll sincerely miss her,” Zambrano said. He described her temperament as “very even-keeled, very conscientious, very sensitive to people’s needs, fully aware that most of the people who come before her will probably never come back before her. County court is very different from circuit court, but you know the case load has become almost overwhelming.”

Atack is originally from Brooklyn. She’s been in Flagler for 34 years.  She’d graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and served two years as a VISTA volunteer before enrolling at the University of Florida Law School in 1970, one of just 10 women enrolled there at the time, when the place had yet to build a ladies’ room. She was a public defender in the Volusia office for seven years—where, as a female and twice-pregnant lawyer, she sustained the usual degradations and humiliations from male colleagues and judges not yet past the Neanderthal stage of gender bias. She then worked in private practice with Irwin Connelly, who had been an assistant public defender in Flagler County. She was 47 when she took over the position her husband, who died of cancer, had held for 14 years. In essence, the seat will have been held by an Atack for 32 years by the time Sharon Atack retires in exactly a year.

As Flagler County’s only county court judge, Atack heard civil, criminal, traffic, juvenile delinquency and family court cases.  “Judge Atack is a very special judge and will be missed. She has been a part of the tremendous growth of Flagler County over the years,” said Chief Judge William A. Parsons. “We appreciate her dedication to the Flagler County community, her professionalism, her can-do attitude and collegiality – which will be hard to replace. We wish her well in the future.”

Atack summed up her tenure this way: “It’s a wonderful job, probably the best job in the circuit, and I’ve really enjoyed every day. Every day is different. I’m going to miss the people I work with,. And of course I’m going to miss the stimulation of the job.”

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6 Responses for “Judge Sharon Atack Won’t Run Again This Year, Opening 2nd Flagler Judgeship in 2 Years”

  1. Jojo says:

    So sad to hear that. Judge Atack is a class act who brought class to the bench. She will be missed. God Bless her in retirement.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Farewell and Happy Trails to Judge Atack. Some of her 2005 visionary words in the next link: Published on the Fall of 2005 by the County Court Courier..

    Bunnell: Florida’s “Paradise Lost?”
    By Judge Patti A. Christensen
    A Personal Journal Entry
    As a visiting judge to this small burg, I was greeted by a local barrister,
    “Welcome to paradise.”
    “Bunnell—paradise?” I quietly mused to myself. The little town is basically
    a one traffi c-light town, wedged between St. Augustine and Daytona
    Beach along U.S. 1. Once a thriving timber town, it is now the sleepy seat
    of Flagler County, presently the fastest growing county in Florida. The everexpanding
    Palm Coast ITT community has caused the caseload to increase
    in Flagler, but the local courthouse remains much like it was 50 years ago. It
    is most likely the last Florida courthouse without a security system at the
    The courthouse itself is a stately square brick building with high ceilings
    and airy hallways that emit the odor of antiquity. The odor reminds me of
    the comforting smell of old books in an old library.
    Prior to the addition to accommodate a new county judge, Judge William
    L. “Billy” Wadsworth was the only rooster ruling this roost. He served as
    the presiding judge from 1967 to 1978, and his presence is alive and well in
    the courthouse today.
    Judge Wadsworth’s daughter, Prunie, serves as judicial assistant to the
    only circuit judge, Kim Hammond. Daughter Gail serves as Clerk of the Court.
    Daughter Susan is a circuit judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit! Needless to say,
    the courthouse is in capable hands. The majority of folks grew up knowing
    each other and their families have been friends for decades.
    Many documents fi led with the Clerk were authored or signed by “Papa”
    “Dad had terrible handwriting,” said Prunie, who admits she inherited
    the same affl iction. There are handwritten deeds, judgments, and other recorded
    documents that provide a constant reminder of the great man who
    served Flagler County for 11 years.
    One shouldn’t assume that a strong case of nepotism landed these capable
    folks into their present positions. Prunie worked her way up through the
    Clerk’s offi ce, juggling a variety of jobs and equally dedicated to each one.
    More recently Gail won her position as Clerk of the Court by popular vote.
    Circuit Judge Kim Hammond is famous around these parts, not because his
    family owned and operated the timber mill, but because he was the star
    quarterback for Florida State University.
    Our own county Judge Sharon Atack is the sole county judge serving Flagler
    County. She “inherited” this position in 1995 at Governor Chiles’ request
    after her husband, the late Judge William Atack, lost his valiantly fought
    battle with cancer.
    The pressures and responsibilities of a Flagler County docket are just as
    weighty as larger counties, but they are different in some aspects, explained
    Judge Atack.
    “For example, we don’t do an ‘on call’ schedule because everyone knows
    where we live.”
    Court business in Flagler County is a family affair in many ways. The
    courthouse is run effi ciently and professionally. The folks are cordial and respectful.
    To date there has been no need for high-tech x-ray security equipment
    or searches at the entrance. People just come in and conduct their
    business in a civilized way.
    Some would say it’s just like “paradise.”
    Editor’s Note: Since Judge Christensen wrote this piece for the
    Courier, Prunie has retired and security has been installed. Judge
    Atack reports that Flagler County is now the fastest-growing
    county in the United States. “A person might want to hurry up and
    visit the courthouse,” she said, “before we become ‘Paradise Lost.’”

  3. Anonymous says:

    She is, truly, ONE OF A KIND; almost impossible to replace. Just reading her point of view on the higher case loads, Is a strong indication that she has been around long enough to know when things have seriously changed & it also shows her concern for the people. She is a beautiful person & will b missed by many. I THINK SHE’s MAKING THE RIGHT DESCISSION.

  4. Margaret Federle Wallace Carter via Facebook says:


  5. says:

    lots of luck in the future…what’s for dinner?

  6. juanhunglo says:

    she is a very very nice lady–a fair judge and an even better person-i wish her luck in whatever her future may hold

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