By Michael Williams
What started as an awards ceremony became overshadowed by the retirement of a long time public servant. After a career of public service that spanned 14 years, Judge Benjamin Strand has announced his retirement effective August 31. Strand was honored with an unofficial retirement party at the 31st annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice at Park Vista in Gatlinburg on Monday. Strand was honored with the presentation of a proclamation issued by the state legislature and the President’s Award at the 31st annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice at Park Vista in Gatlinburg. Strand was one of several in the legal and criminal justice profession to receive honors.
Strand began his career in the general sessions, juvenile and probate courts in 1998. During the luncheon State Rep. Andrew Farmer praised Strand for his fairness and referred to him as a mentor. At Farmer’s urging, the state legislature passed a resolution honoring Strand with a proclamation. Farmer presented Strand with the proclamation which moved the judge to tears. After a standing ovation he amused the audience with a witty observation.
“Being a Democrat, I am surprised the governor and the Lt. governor signed this,” said Strand. “This is one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Strand was also honored with the President’s Award in recognition of his public service. Several other local officials were presented with awards for their work in juvenile justice.
Jennifer Shelton of Cocke County was honored as Supervisor of the Year. Shelton has been working with the Cocke County Children’s Service since 1991.
Sara Reynolds of the Sevier County Juvenile Court was named as Youth Services Officer of the Year. The Meritorious Service Award was presented to Tommy Clapp who operates a counseling service in Jefferson County.
The Humanitarian Award was awarded to the Bonner Center for their work in funding many non-profit organizations. The center currently has ten community partners including Habitat for Humanity, Appalachian Outreach and several others.
A Special Recognition Award was presented to attorney Patrice Lee Minteer who has been practicing law in Jefferson County since 1994.
Judge Jeff Rader was awarded the McCain-Abernathy Memorial Award. The honor is the highest award that can be conferred by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Rader was a graduate of Sevier County High School and Graduated from the University of Tennessee. Rader has served as a General Sessions Judge since 1998.