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Posted: March 25, 2017 2:21 p.m.

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Melanie Bell: Filling 40-year-old shoes and making them her own

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Newton County Probate Judge Melanie Bell decided she was going to pursue a career in law when she was nine years old and has been at the top of her class ever since pursuing her goal.

When she was younger, the first interaction she had with anyone in the legal world was with her childhood piano teacher’s husband.

“He was one of the first to prosecute a murder trial without a body, so very well thought of as a great legal mind,” she said. “But then I also saw him at home at my piano lessons so I would always see him with his kids and being just a good family man, so he was just somebody that I really looked up to.”

Bell completed her undergraduate degree at Duke University before moving to Georgia to for law school at Mercer University.

“I wanted to come to Georgia for law school because I knew I wanted to live somewhere near Covington just because I have a lot of family connections here,” she said.

Bell has been visiting Covington and Newton County since the 80s and has always known it was where she would end up. She moved to here officially in 2000.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but we used to vacation here,” she said. “My dad was a minister, so we didn’t take big, fancy vacations, we’d come visit family in Covington.”

Bell said she is constantly reminded that she was able to get to where she is today through the strength given to her by God.

“The time I really learned that lesson was, my mother had been sick for many years, but my father unexpectedly died a week before the Bar exam,” she said. “And so initially I wasn’t going to take it, but then my siblings told me dad would want me to do it and if I didn’t pass everyone would understand why.”

Bell ended up passing the exam on her first try and started her career in law and started working in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit with Judge John Ott as a law clerk in November of 2000 before moving to work with then-District Attorney Kendall Wynn Jr. in April 2003. In 2005 she became the crimes against women and children prosecutor.

“It’s the most rewarding work, but it takes kind of a toll on you,” she said.

Bell chose to run for election to the Probate Judge position after then-Judge Henry Baker announced his retirement after 40 years.

“It was very daunting,” she said. “I would literally hear his name when we visited when I was young. He took the bench in 1977 when I was two years old. He was very kind to me and gave me advise and just told me to kind of make it mine.”

She said she is working to steam line the Probate court as a whole.

Outside of the courthouse, Bell serves as a board member for the Kiwanis Club of Covington, she is an active member of Eastridge Community Church and is also an ambassador of the Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband Travis enjoy spending time with their nieces and nephews along with their two dogs.

Bell said she strives to live by the words of Mark Twain: “Always do right.” She is constantly faced with tough decisions and has learned that she might not always like to make the hard decisions, but she feels confident that she will always make the right choice.

 

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