While most boys were playing cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers, a young Wade Padgett dreamed of one day donning a judge's robe.
"I think it is very rare in life when you get the opportunity to do the job that you think was meant for you since you were a little kid," the lawyer and Columbia County chief magistrate judge said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue officially announced Padgett's appointment as the Augusta Judicial Circuit's newest Superior Court judge. Padgett will replace Judge Duncan Wheale, who plans to retire in January.
The circuit's judges preside over domestic, civil and criminal cases in Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties.
Padgett, 43, said that as a child he always wanted to be a judge to help people and protect the community.
Padgett, a former assistant district attorney to former District Attorneys Mike Eubanks and Danny Craig, served as Columbia County's associate magistrate under Chief Magistrate David Huguenin starting in 1994 and was elected as chief magistrate in 2004.
As news of his appointment spread, Padgett, who is in private practice with his wife, Alice, said he has been recognized and congratulated around town.
"I had one man who looked at me and said, 'It is so good to see our local judges changing,' " Padgett said Wednesday. "It has been kind of neat. People are excited about it."
The most exciting part of Padgett's appointment was that he got to share the news with his father, Bill Padgett, a retired police officer who encouraged Padgett to go to law school instead of pursuing a law enforcement career.
"My dad was at my house when the governor called," Padgett said. "Dad was actually sitting there while I was talking to the governor. It was a pretty neat experience."
His mother, Andrea Riley, has always been his biggest cheerleader, he said.
Padgett, a board member of Leadership Augusta and the Augusta Bar Association, said he has handled many types of cases in his legal career from the prosecutor, plaintiff and defense perspectives.
He said he'll be ready "to hit the ground running, albeit from a new perspective," as soon as Wheale's resignation goes into effect.
As is custom with new judges, Padgett will be assigned to domestic cases, while more senior judges handle civil and criminal cases, he said.
"The existing judges are very talented, hard workers, and all of them have been nothing but gracious to me since the announcement was made last week," said Padgett, who has been attending meetings with them to discuss what needs to be done outside the courtroom.
As chief magistrate, Padgett started Teenage Years 101, a legal seminar for parents and teens. Padgett said he'll continue giving the seminars, which were started after he served as a chaperone for a youth trip with Wesley United Methodist Church, where he is a member.
Padgett is involved with his church and his children -- Matt, 16, and Jordan, 15.
The former University of Georgia defensive lineman also is manning the Greenbrier High School sidelines for the second year as a volunteer defensive line coach.
Coaching for the school his children attend is gratifying, but seeing other children he has mentored over the years is just as satisfying, Padgett said.
"To see the kids I coached in Little League playing for other schools, and when they come up to you after the game and you get a big hug and get to see little Johnny as a semigrown young man, that is pretty cool," the judge said.
No date for Padgett's swearing-in ceremony has been set and will not occur until Wheale officially vacates the bench seat.
When Padgett resigns as magistrate, the Superior Court judges in the circuit will select his replacement.
Padgett said he hopes Bobby Christine, a lawyer and associate magistrate and former assistant district attorney, will replace him.
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