By Bill O'Brien
LELAND — A well-known Leelanau County attorney will take over as the county's probate judge.
Leland lawyer Larry Nelson held off Suttons Bay attorney Marian Kromkowski by less than 300 votes in a hotly contested but respectful race to replace former Probate Judge Joseph Deegan.
The seat had been vacant since Deegan's death in July 2009. Nelson will serve the remainder of Deegan's unexpired term and a full 6-year term will be on the ballot in 2012.
The race was close, as Nelson took Bingham, Centerville, Cleveland, Glen Arbor, Kasson and his home township of Leland, while Kromkowski ran strong on the east side of the county with wins in Elmwood, Leelanau and Suttons Bay townships, along with Solon and Empire townships.
Nelson held a 400-vote lead in the race with Leelanau Township the only remaining precinct to report, but Kromkowski couldn't make up the difference when vote totals came in early Wednesday.
The final tally was 5,200 votes for Nelson and 4,916 for Kromkowksi. A total of 10,116 Leelanau voters cast ballots in the judicial race, about 54 percent of the county's registered voters. The county's total voter turnout was 11,576, about 62 percent of its 18,688 registered voters.
Nelson has been a private practice attorney for nearly 30 years. He previously served as Leelanau County prosecutor when the job was still a part-time post.