The appointment of Bobbi M. Alpers as chief judge of Iowa 7th’s District was announced Wednesday, making her the first woman to hold the job in the history of the Iowa judicial system.
Alpers will replace Chief Judge David Schoenthaler, who is retiring, next month.
The chief judge supervises all judicial officers and court employees in the district, sets the times and places for holding court, designates the presiding judge for individual cases and serves on a judicial council that advises the Iowa Supreme Court on various matters.
Alpers said she was the only applicant for the position and was interviewed in June. Her appointment was announced by the state Supreme Court.
Alpers said she does not plan any big changes in her new role, but is looking forward to the challenge of being an administrator as well as a judge.
“I have a real interest in keeping the district going in the direction it’s going,” she said. “I think right now everything is in pretty good shape.”
Alpers, who began her Iowa legal career in 1983 as a law clerk and became a judge 14 years ago, said she looks forward to working with others from around the state on different issues. While she is proud to be the first woman in the state to be chosen a chief judge, she assessed the situation humbly.
“I’m very pleased that the court has approved of my application,” she said. “I know it will be a very interesting thing to do.”
Iowa Supreme Chief Justice Louis Lavorato said in a prepared statement that Alpers respects the ideas and views of others and will make a good chief judge.
“She believes in consensus building and she is pragmatic,” he said. “The court has high regard for her.”
Alpers continues a tradition of Quad-City area women winning appointment to high-ranking positions in the Iowa court system. Linda Neumann of LeClaire served 17 years as a Iowa Supreme Court justice before retiring in 2003.
Schoenthaler, who retires Aug. 1, said he will miss the people he has worked with and the challenges of the job. He has been a judge for 14 years and served for almost three years as chief judge.
“It’s so very interesting, very rewarding, very challenging at times,” he said of being chief judge.
Schoenthaler, 65, plans to move to Venice, Fla., after his retirement. The judge said he will work as a civil mediator a couple of days a week to stay busy and return to the Quad-City area occasionally to visit.
He said the position of chief judge is difficult because the person serves as an administrator of personnel and policies while also making decisions in the courtroom. His advice to Alpers was simple, but thoughtful.
“Do what you think is right and what is best for the system,” he said.
Dustin Lemmon can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.