SHALIMAR — Ginger Bowden Madden will be the next state attorney for Florida’s First Judicial Circuit.
The veteran attorney will be the first woman and first Okaloosa County resident to serve in the post, overseeing the prosecution of criminal cases in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.
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"We have a great opportunity before us and a tremendous responsibility to the people of these four counties," Madden said in a news release.
Madden qualified without opposition Friday to run for the state attorney’s job. Outgoing State Attorney Bill Eddins is retiring after 16 years in office and his chief deputy, Greg Marcille, dropped out of the race last month, citing health concerns.
Also qualifying for office without opposition in the First Judicial Circuit was Okaloosa County Judge Angela Mason. Mason, like Madden a former assistant state attorney, was appointed to the judgeship in 2018.
Mason and Madden will be sworn in in January to serve four year terms in office.
Madden, who stepped down as an assistant state attorney with over 25 years experience to run for the job she has now secured, received wide support, particularly in her home county. She raised over $124,000 in campaign contributions and was endorsed by members of both the Crestview and Destin city councils.
"My mission will be to work with these men and women to keep the Panhandle as Florida’s safest community," she said upon receiving the endorsements.
A significant portion of Madden’s campaign contributions came from defense attorneys whose job it will be to oppose Madden’s team of prosecutors in court. Eddins said the defense bar has historically involved itself in state attorneys’ races.
"I feel it’s standard and normal for any race to have the defense bar become involved," he said.
Eddins said that Madden has pledged to retain stability within the State Attorney’s Office and that he has agreed "to do everything I can to work with her to have a smooth transition."
"My plan for this important office is simple: to put dangerous criminals behind bars and keep our neighborhoods safe," Madden said in her release.
"Our courageous law enforcement and first responders have the important first step to maintain our safety, and it is the state attorney's responsibility to see that work through to its proper conclusion," she said.
Madden will have to make some key personnel decisions not long after taking office. Both Marcille and Bill Bishop, the chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County, will be forced to retire in mid-2021 by virtue of their enrollment in the Florida Deferred Retirement Option Program and either could choose to leave early.
The First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, along with all other state attorney’s offices in the state, will also likely still be facing in January a myriad of issues presented by the coronavirus-imposed shutdown of judicial systems across the state.
It has not yet been determined when courthouses around the state will open again for business.
Eddins said he is convinced Madden will be up to whatever challenges she is forced to face.
"I think Ginger Madden will be a very good state attorney," he said.