BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — A woman will wield a gavel and wear judicial robes for the first time in Grand Traverse County's history.
"It is historic. It is overwhelming. It is a privilege. It is humbling," newly elected Probate Court Judge Melanie Stanton said before a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday.
"I am very, very excited."
Stanton defeated Kirsten Keilitz by about 1,500 votes in November, her last hurdle to becoming the county's first female judge.
Stanton officially takes over as judge of the county's probate court on Jan. 2.
A probate judge primarily works in family law and makes decisions on guardians, wills, divorces, estates, abuse cases and more.
Stanton wants to maintain the use of speciality courts, like current juvenile sobriety and mental health courts.
She also wants to use the nonprofit Grand Traverse Area Literacy Council to access and improve the literacy of parties in her court.
"I believe one of the barriers that keep people in poverty is they are functionally illiterate," Stanton said.
Stanton will replace two-term Probate Judge David Stowe, who did not seek re-election after a series of personal and professional problems.
Stanton was a nurse before she became an attorney.
She's practiced family and probate law for more than two decades, and spent time as an assistant prosecutor in Leelanau County.